Macular degeneration is a degenerative eye disease that affects the macula (middle of the retina). There are a number of potential complications of this condition, including falls and fractures, retinal detachment, depression, and Charles Bonnet syndrome. For this reason, it is important to get treated if you suffer from this eye disease. At Wichita Vision Institute in Wichita, KS, Dr. Patel understands the importance of treating this disease.
That’s why, today, we’re taking an in-depth look at the symptoms of this condition. If you don’t know what to look out for, you can’t suspect that you suffer from the disease. We will also advise you on when you should see an eye expert about your symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of Macular Degeneration?
There are no universal symptoms of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Everyone who suffers from this degenerative eye disease has a unique experience. Among the most common AMD symptoms are:
- Seeing straight lines as wavy
- Trouble recognizing familiar faces
- Blurry vision
- Fuzzy vision
- Blind spots in the center of vision
- A complete loss of central vision
Retinal drusen is another sign that you suffer from AMD. Most of the time, there are no symptoms of drusen, especially if they are small. However, in some cases, people with drusen may experience a loss of peripheral vision or occasional vision graying or flickering. Drusen are usually yellow but may be white. They can be detected during a routine eye exam with dilating eye drops and an ophthalmoscope.
What Are the Types of AMD?
AMD can be broken down into two types, wet AMD and dry AMD. Dry AMD occurs when cells in the macula that are sensitive to light start to decompose. Typically, people with dry AMD start to notice blurriness or fuzziness in their vision in the affected eye. Usually, this vision impairment happens slowly.
Wet AMD is far less common than dry AMD, but it is usually far more severe. People with this condition usually experience rapid vision loss. In the case of wet AMD, vision loss occurs because abnormal blood vessels form under the macula and leak fluid, such as blood. When fluid leaks from the blood vessels in the back of the eye, such symptoms as blurring and central vision blind spots can occur. Typically, the onset of these symptoms is rapid.
When Should I See an Eye Expert?
As a general rule of thumb, if you are over the age of 45, you should get a comprehensive eye exam. Assuming there are no signs of AMD, like retinal drusen or poor vision, you should continue getting routine eye exams every two to four years. If you suffer from AMD, you should use an Amsler grid and check your vision daily. If you notice any significant changes, you should schedule an appointment with an eye expert right away.
How to Use an Amsler Grid
It is highly advisable to hang your Amsler grid somewhere under good lighting. Also, note that it should be hung in a place of prominence where you will see it every day, and remember to test your vision. We recommend hanging your grid on your bathroom mirror or refrigerator door. To use the Amsler grid, stand approximately 12 to 15 inches away from it. If you normally wear reading glasses, wear your reading glasses while taking your vision test.
With one eye covered, look directly at the dot in the middle of the grid. All of the lines should be straight and dark. Take note of whether some of the lines look broken, wavy, dim, or blurry. Then, cover your other eye, repeating the test. Again, take note if the grid looks unusual in any way. If you notice some of the lines are broken or distorted, schedule an emergency appointment with an eye expert.
What Are the Risk Factors of Macular Degeneration?
Age is the most significant risk factor for AMD. Typically, this condition affects individuals who are at least 60 years of age. However, age is not the only risk factor for developing this degenerative eye disease. For example, Caucasians are far more likely to develop this condition than other races.
Furthermore, your risk of developing this condition is greater if you smoke, suffer from obesity, have hypertension or high cholesterol, or have a family history of the disease.
How Can I Mitigate My Risk of Severe AMD?
There are a number of steps you can take to mitigate your risk of late-stage dry or wet AMD. For example, the AREDS2 discovered that you can reduce your risk of developing late-stage AMD if you take the following supplements every day:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
However, you should know that these supplements were only shown effective in people who had severe vision loss, numerous drusen, or large drusen. If you have not yet developed AMD or only have AMD that is mild in nature. If you only suffer from mild AMD, you may benefit from managing your blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol. You can also benefit from not smoking.
How Is Wet AMD Treated?
One of the most common wet AMD treatment methods is the injection of anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) drugs into your affected eye. This will slow the leakage of any malfunctioning blood vessels in your eye and reduce the growth of new abnormal vessels.
Another way to treat wet AMD is through photodynamic therapy. This treatment method involves injecting a drug into an arm vein. Once in your arm vein, this drug will be circulated throughout your body via your blood vessels. Eventually, it will reach the blood vessels in your eye and a laser beam will be used to activate the drug. The drug will destroy the damaged blood vessels in your eye, slowing the progression of the disease. Laser surgery can also help.
How Is Dry AMD Treated?
Unfortunately, there is no way to treat dry AMD yet. However, regardless of the type of AMD you have, it is highly advisable to eat foods that are good for your eye health. For example, you should try to incorporate lean fish, yellow and orange produce, and dark, leafy greens into your diet. If you are among the 90% of people with AMD who suffer from dry AMD, Dr. Patel can refer you to a low-vision specialist, so you can make the most out of your vision.
How To Make the Most Out of Low Vision
Different techniques are ideal for different people who suffer from low vision. One technique that may benefit you if you are experiencing vision loss is to use a magnifier when you are reading. The magnifier should be held close to your eye, almost like a telescope or a pair of binoculars, and your book should be held at chest height.
You can also read more easily with low vision if you have strong bifocals. Moreover, you may find reading easier if you get a Kindle Paperwhite. This Kindle was designed for people with low vision, and the glare-free contrast and brightness difference between the original Kindle is phenomenal. Alternatively, you may want to get an Audible subscription, so you can enjoy books without having to struggle to read at all.
Get a Specialized Keyboard
You can also make your life easier if you have low vision by investing in a specialized keyboard. If you need to look at your keyboard to type, you should strongly consider getting a keyboard with large letters or extreme contrast. Also, you may want to look into getting a microphone, so you can use speech-to-text software to type. Text-to-speech software also exists, so you don’t have to read on your computer or phone.
If you want to watch TV on your computer monitor, keep in mind that a hand magnifier is not ideal. Rather, you should strongly consider getting a video magnifier that will magnify the images on your computer monitor significantly.
Get the Information Your Need for Optimum Eye Health
The bottom line is that everyone’s AMD symptoms are different. However, some of the most common signs of this disease are blurry or fuzzy vision, blind spots in the middle of the field of view, and a complete loss of central vision. If you suspect you suffer from this degenerative eye disease, it is important that you come in for testing because ignoring the condition can lead to serious consequences. Contact us today at Wichita Vision Institute in Wichita, KS to learn more.