AMD: What It Is, Symptoms and Risk Factors
Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels behind the retina start to grow under the macula, the region of the retina where central vision resides. These new vessels are fragile and leaky, leading to an accumulation of blood and fluid that lifts the surface of the macula from its normal position, causing scarring, and loss of photoreceptors (cones and rods) that enable sight. Damage to the macula occurs rapidly, and if left untreated, wet AMD may quickly progress to loss of central vision or near total blindness.
Dry AMD is characterized by an accumulation of protein deposits within the retina, called drusen. Dry AMD may remain stable, or may progress to wet AMD, or geographic atrophy, which is an untreatable loss of photoreceptors leading to a decline in vision. Drusen are often detected in people over the age of 60. An increase in the size or number of drusen increases the risk of developing advanced dry AMD or wet AMD. The dry form of AMD is much more common. Approximately 10-15 percent of people with dry AMD will go on to develop the wet form; the remainder may remain relatively stable or progress to geographic atrophy (GA), which involves irreversible loss of photoreceptors without the abnormal growth of blood vessels or leakage of fluid.
The symptoms can appear suddenly or may be noticed over time, especially if a diagnosis of dry AMD has already been made. Symptoms may include the following:
- Straight lines or surfaces appear wavy
- Central vision becomes foggy or blurry, especially in dim light
- Difficulty distinguishing colors
- A central blind spot develops (a dark or empty area)
- Difficulty reading
- Difficulty recognizing faces
- Age — 60 or older
- Genetic (higher risk if AMD also present among immediate family)
- Race (Caucasians and Asians affected more than people of dark skin color)
- Female Gender
- High blood pressure
A healthy and proactive lifestyle can aid in prevention of AMD. Regular eye examinations may lead to early detection of the disease.
- Eat a diet rich in vitamins C and E, selenium, and carotenoids (fresh fruits and dark leafy green vegetables)
- Take vitamins specifically formulated for eye health — those high in antioxidants and zinc, as recommended by the National Eye Institute’s Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), which found a significantly reduced risk of vision loss associated with AMD in people who took this formulation.
- Don’t smoke
- Maintain normal blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol levels
It is suggested that you consult with your ophthalmologist and follow the dosage recommendations for vitamin supplements.