How Age-Related Macular Degeneration Affects Your Lifestyle

Age-related macular degeneration (AMG) is the deterioration of the macula, the small central area of the retina, located in the back of the eye, that controls visual acuity. This area of the eye determines one's ability to perform visual tasks that require fine detail, including reading, face recognition, driving, watching television, and computer use. Macular degeneration attributes as the leading cause of vision loss among older Americans.

When does it typically occur?

The two types of macular degeneration are:
1. dry macular degeneration (non-neovascular)
2. wet macular degeneration (neovascular)

Dry macular degeneration is the most common form and occurs when yellowish spots accumulate in and around the macula. If left untreated, vision loss may occur and can progress to late-stage geographic atrophy. Over time, the gradual degradation of retinal cells and result in severe vision loss.

Wet or neovascular AMD occurs when new blood vessels grow in the macula, where they should not be.

Who is at risk?

AMD is most common among people age 80 and older. Only about two percent of people who are 50 and older experiencing vision impairment due to AMD. Besides affecting older populations, AMD has a higher rate of occurrence in Caucasians, females, and smokers. Other risk factors include heredity, high blood pressure, lighter eye color, obesity, and as a side effect of drug use.

To determine if you have AMD, your ophthalmologist will use an Amsler grid to discover if you see blurry or blank spots in your field of vision. The ophthalmologist uses a special lens to look inside your eye to determine if there are any changes to your retina and macula.

How does it affect your lifestyle?

AMD typically presents as a slow, painless loss of vision but can manifest as a sudden loss of vision.

AMD's effect on the quality of life reaches far beyond tasks requiring good vision such as reading. Limitations also affect social-emotional health and the ability to participate in leisure activities. Due to a decrease in confidence, vision loss links to morbidity, increased risk of falls, limits social interaction, independence, ability to care for oneself, depression, and chronic illness.

What can I do?

Early detection is crucial in slowing the effects of AMD. Early signs include shadowy areas in your central vision, fuzzy or distorted vision. Diagnosis in the early stages includes nutritional intervention and medication. It is important to see an eye doctor for regular eye exams. To reduce the impact of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) on the quality of your life, visit retina specialist Robert M. Reinauer, MD by contacting New Vision Eye Center at 772-257-8700 to schedule a consultation.