Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of permanent vision loss in people over the age of 60. While researchers still have yet to pinpoint what exactly causes AMD from one person to the next, there are known risk factors that can contribute to its development. Here’s more insight into the condition, including types, risk factors, prevention, and symptoms.

Wet Macular Degeneration vs. Dry Macular Degeneration

AMD occurs when the macula, or portion of your retina responsible for central vision, becomes damaged. Over time, this deterioration creates a blurred area or blank spot in your center field of vision that continues to expand. The ways in which this damage develops vary depending on which type of macular degeneration you have.

In cases of dry macular degeneration, the cells of your macula break down slowly. Dry AMD is the most prevalent version by far: Nearly 90% of people diagnosed with AMD have this type. Wet macular degeneration, on the other hand, is considered advanced AMD, and is almost always preceded by dry AMD. While only 10% of cases are diagnosed in the wet AMD stage, it accounts for the overwhelming majority of AMD-related blindness.

Do I Have Macular Degeneration?

Even just the thought of vision loss is concerning, and it’s understandable to be further overwhelmed by the progressive nature of AMD. But if you’re experiencing vision changes that sound like AMD, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have this condition. Vision changes can have many possible causes, and only an eye care specialist can make a formal diagnosis. Learning about the signs and risk factors in greater detail may be helpful to you in the meantime.

Symptoms of Macular Degeneration

In its earliest state, AMD doesn’t produce any symptoms. As it progresses to intermediate dry AMD, you may notice slight blurriness in your central vision, or have difficulty seeing in dimly lit areas. Late AMD, either wet or dry, is marked by a larger blurry area. For some people, straight lines can also appear crooked or wavy, and colors may seem less vibrant.

Risk Factors & Prevention 

As its name suggests, age is among the greatest risk factors for AMD; the prevalence is highest in populations over 55. Caucasians are also more likely to get AMD. Beyond these unchangeable factors, however, there are risks you can control. Smoking doubles your risk, so make a plan to quit if you’re a smoker, or continue avoiding tobacco if you don’t currently partake.

Evidence also suggests an overall healthy lifestyle can lower your risk of AMD. Staying active, keeping within a healthy range for blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and eating a nutrient-rich diet can help. Prioritize the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin in particular: they protect your macula, and in addition to reducing your risk of AMD, may also help you avoid cataracts. Good sources include kale, spinach, collards, and broccoli.

Schedule a Macular Degeneration Eye Appointment Today

While there’s currently no cure for AMD, diagnosing this and other eye diseases early allows our specialists to recommend interventions that can slow its progression and preserve your vision to the greatest possible degree. Our doctors perform comprehensive screenings during routine exams to look for the earliest indicators of any issue that needs to be addressed. If you’re due for your exam, schedule an appointment by calling (404) 351-2220 or by submitting a request online.