Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause for visual impairment in old age. Macular degeneration causes damage (degeneration) to the centre of the retina, which is responsible for sharp vision. Depending on how it progresses, it is divided into the dry form, which remains stable for a long time and only worsens slowly, and the wet form, which quickly causes marked deterioration in your vision. The wet form can be treated with medication; to date, there is no effective treatment for the dry form.
The macular is the region of the retina with the highest concentration of photoreceptors and correspondingly the highest visual performance of the eye. Age-related macular degeneration results in deposits in the macular, which impact on the visual acuity over time for reasons which are still unknown. Age, smoking, high blood pressure and a certain genetic predisposition are deemed to be risk factors for the occurrence of AMD. Besides age-related macular degeneration, there are other much less common causes of damage to the macular which can also occur at a younger age.
Age-related macular degeneration is divided into dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration. The dry form makes up around 80% of cases. It is primarily characterised by deposits, progresses slowly and rarely causes serious loss of vision. The wet form is characterised by the formation of new vessels and swelling in the retina. It can cause rapid deterioration in vision.
As macular degeneration affects the middle of the retina, the sharp vision and ability to focus your vision on an object is restricted. The more common dry form, which progresses slowly, usually begins to affect your vision when you are reading. The letters are no longer clear, are distorted, crooked or blurry. With time, the vision problems in day-to-day life become progressively more obvious. Everything that you fix your eyes on seems unclear and blurry, and your perception of colour is also no longer as good as it was. As macular degeneration affects the centre of the retina, the vision problem develops from the centre outwards. Your peripheral vision remains virtually unaffected. In the case of the wet form of macular degeneration, the deterioration in your vision is much faster and causes severe loss of sight if not treated. If you have problems with your vision, you should immediately consult an eye specialist to clarify the cause and start the necessary treatment(s). Regular eye examinations from the age of 40 are recommended to detect any age-related vision problems.
AMD is diagnosed on the basis of the characteristic symptoms, the progress of the disease and with the help of eye tests and an eye examination.
The treatment depends on the form of AMD. In the case of the dry form, visual aids and avoidance of risk factors (smoking, high blood pressure) are the focus so as to slow down the progress of the disease. To date, there is no known effective treatment. The wet form of AMD can often be successfully treated with medication (injections) which is injected directly into the eye. These injections prevent vascularisation and the resulting retinal swelling.