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What is Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?

Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of sight loss in the UK, affecting more than 600,000 people. It occurs in people of 65+, but there are less common types that can affect people at any age.

“The earlier the AMD is diagnosed, the greater the chances of treatment and maintaining your vision”

A 3D OCT Scan can often detect the early stages of Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Regular eye examinations are important so the Optician can monitor you vision, diagnose and recommend treatment if necessary. We have easy Online Booking for appointments or call 020 8759 9395.

There are two principle types: dry AMD and wet AMD. Dry AMD is typically associated with age and is slower in onset. Wet AMD tends to be more sudden in onset and thus more serious, occurring at any age.

In both types the central part of the eye, known as the macular, deteriorates resulting in a loss of central vision. It involves a build-up of deposits in the eye that can cause a gradual decline in your central field of vision causing damage to the macula.

What is macular degeneration?

'Say hello to Mac' video from the Macular Society

What are the symptoms?

Most people do not experience symptoms in the early stages of Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), especially if dry degeneration is present in only one eye. The most common symptoms are straight lines that may appear wavy and there may be patches in your vision. As the macular cells deteriorate, people may notice the following visual changes:

  • Straight lines may appear bent or wavy such as door frames and lamp post

  • Dark spots or gaps may appear in your vision especially first thing in the day (they may look like smudges on a glass)

  • Words may disappear when you are reading

  • You may find difficulty in recognising faces

  • Bright light can be uncomfortable as well as when changing from dark to light environments

  • Objects may appear to change in shape, size, colour or move or disappear

  • Colours can appear faded

  • You may turn your head off centre to see things better

Because Age Related Macular Degeneration mainly affects the loss of central vision, it makes it difficult for people to see objects in front of them such as reading and recognising faces.

Vision with a late stage of macular degeneration

Vision may look like this for someone with a late stage of AMD

Normal vision

Compared to people without AMD

Photos courtesy of The National Eye Institute (Bethesda, MD)

What are the causes?

The cause of Macular Degeneration is unknown, however there are certain factors that are believed to heighten the risk of developing the condition including:

  • Age - macular degeneration is most prominent in over 65s

  • A family history of the condition

  • Poor diet - especially one which lacks antioxidants or is high in saturated fat

  • Smoking

  • High blood pressure

  • Overexposure to UV light

  • Gender - more women are diagnosed than men

  • Side effects of some general health medications

What is the treatment?

There are two types of AMD, classified as dry or wet. There is no known effective treatment for dry form of macular degeneration, although lifestyle choices and nutrition may play a role in minimising further progression (see our tips below).

“Wet AMD can often be treated if it is caught early enough, and requires referral to a specialist eye doctor, known as an Ophthalmologist, who will discuss the options available.”

Tips that may prevent or slow down macular degeneration

Evidence shows that improvements to your diet including foods rich in certain nutrients such as lutein and zeaxanthin, and increasing the intake of antioxidants can help reduce the risk of macular degeneration. These are found in spinach, kale, broccoli and sprouts, as well as in specific AMD nutritional supplements. Have a diet rich in Omega 3 which includes oily fish and nuts, and a diet low in saturated fat to maintain a healthy weight and high blood pressure.

Those with AMD often find increased lighting or contrast helpful. The use of electronic devices, such as tablets, can prove very useful, as they can be adjusted for illumination and contrast. Protect your eyes from UV light and high energy blue light with UV and blue light absorbing sunglasses, spectacles and UV blocking contact lenses. Although macular degeneration mainly affects the over 60s, the damage happens throughout your life. It is especially important for children to protect their eyes from UV light as their eyes are more vulnerable. We have a wide range of sunglasses for children from age 3 months.

These tips will also help with macular degeneration:

  • Stop smoking

  • Have a regular eye exam and include an advanced eye health check in the form of a 3D OCT Scan. This is especially important if you are over 60 or have a family history of macular degeneration (AMD).

  • Wear a brimmed hat in the sun

Smoking and the risk of macular degeneration

Image courtesy on VisionMatters

Macular Degeneration Home Test

The Amsler Grid is a good way for people to monitor their own changes in vision for the signs of AMD because the Optician may only see you every 6 or 12 months. It is especially important if the Optician notices changes at the back of your eyes.

  • Make sure your screen is at 100% or print the grid

  • If you need glasses wear you reading glasses (but not varifocals)

  • Hold the grid at your normal reading distance, or have the screen at your normal reading distance, about 30cm/12 inches away from your face

  • Cover one eye at a time and focus on the dot in the centre of the grid

    • Are all the lines straight?

    • Do you see any distortion, or any broken or wavy lines?

    • Do you see any missing patches?

  • If the lines appear wavy, distorted or broken in any way you should make an appointment to see your Optometrist or Ophthalmologist immediately

More information and advice on macular degeneration

Vision problems can arise in anyone, at any time – it doesn't matter how young or old you are, or how fit you are. It's our goal is to spot early signs of eye disease to help you get back to your normal life as quickly as possible. If you are ever worried about your eyes or your family’s eye health, or want to discuss risk factors, feel free to come and talk to us about eye care.

Call 020 8759 9395 to make an appointment for an eye test. Alternatively, you can book online. Visit the macular society for full information and details of local support groups.

Ideally located near the Heathrow airport in the London Borough of Hounslow, Cranford Opticians can be easily reached from Twickenham, Feltham, Richmond , Teddington, Whitton, Hayes, Heston, Harlington, Southall, Staines, Ashford, Stanwell, Sunbury and many other areas in London and Surrey.

Find us at 742 Bath Road, Cranford, Hounslow, London, TW5 9TY. Street parking on The Avenue, High Street, Berkeley Avenue or Waye Avenue. Car parks at the Ibis Budget London Heathrow Central (TW5 9SX) and DoubleTree Hilton by Hilton London Heathrow Airport (TW5 9QE). Please check for parking conditions.

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