Inside the eye, the macula, located in the very center of the retina, is responsible for high-resolution, central vision, and is home to a high density of cone cells. As an individual ages, the macula naturally deteriorates, and AMD is the result. This condition causes close to 9% of visual impairment in Canadians over 60. A natural occurring process that comes with aging, age-related macular degeneration impacts visual acuity, and may cause blurred central vision – meaning that dark spots or straight lines appear in the vision without any type of pattern. AMD can be categorized into two different groups:
- Wet AMD: Caused by enlarged or irregular blood vessels near the center of the retina. As the vessels change, fluid may leak and cause serious destruction to the retina. Drastic, sudden changes in vision are a typical symptoms of wet AMD.
- Dry AMD: This is the more common type of AMD, and is caused by age as cells within the macula degenerate over time. While deterioration is often slow, it may eventually result in total vision loss. Dry AMD may be categorized as early, intermediate or advanced depending on the severity of the symptoms.
Symptoms of AMD may not be noticeable for long periods of time, as they are typically subdued in the beginning. While it’s difficult to avoid AMD, it can be managed with regularly scheduled eye exams for patients over the age of 60. A healthy diet and awareness of UV exposure can also help to delay the start of AMD, although the condition is natural with aging.