Vision is such an essential part of our lives, so much of what we do and enjoy depends upon the ability to see clearly, if your vision begins to fail, it can cause such great anxiety. And really, it does fail!
It is therefore smart to gain some peace of mind by understanding at every point in time, what is going on with your vision.
What is AMD?
One of the leading causes of vision loss in people over 65 is a condition known as Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). To understands how AMD affects vision, let’s take a journey through how the eye essentially works:
How the Eyes Work
Light rays enters the eye through the cornea, pupil and lens. These light rays are focused on the retina, a light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. The retina has two areas: the peripheral retina and the macula. The macula is a small areas at the center of the retina, while the peripheral retina is the large area surrounding the macula.
It is the peripheral retina that gives us our side or wide-angle vision, while the macula retina gives us our pinpoint vision, and allows us to see the detail clearly, helping us to do things like drive, read, or recognize a face.
What Damages AMD Causes
AMD is the breakdown of the macula, affecting the central vision, causing blurriness, dark areas or distortion. This condition affects many people as they get older.
The Two Forms of AMD
There are two forms of AMD, one is known as the dry form (atrophic), and the other is the wet form (exudative). 9 out 10 people who get AMD get the dry form.
The retina is made of many areas that are sandwich together to make a smooth surface. These layers work together allowing us to see clearly. In people with dry form AMD, the layer under the retina, known as the RPE is affected by deposits called drusen as well as other age-related changes. These changes may cause vision loss.
Monitoring Your Vision From Home Using the Amsler Grid
A basic yet important tool for monitoring your vision is called an Amsler grid. You can use it to monitor your vision at home, or anywhere (download one here):
- You simply sit in a well-lit area and hold the grid away from you at a comfortable position. If you wear glasses, you should keep them on.
- Cover one eye and look directly at the point in the center of the grid.
- Pay attention to the pattern of lines in your side or peripheral vision then do the same with the other eye.
- Usually a vision problem from AMD makes some of the straight lines appear wavy or blurry. Some areas of the grid could look dark or even blank.
- If at any point you notice any new changes in your usual sight, please book an appointment with your optometrist for a more comprehensive validation check.
- Noticing a change in your Amsler grid test when you have dry form AMD, could mean that wet form AMD is developing.
Wet Form AMD: the bigger problem
With wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels begin to grow under the retinal layers behind the macula.
These vessels leak fluid or bleed, which further blurs or distorts central vision. Though about 1 in 10 people with AMD have the wet form, but an untreated dry form can quickly degenerate into the wet form.
Further Test By a Professional & Next Steps
If your optometrist discovers you have AMD, he or she will run further diagnostic tests to see what exactly is going on with your macula. Depending on what form you have and other conditions your Optometrist may refer you to an Ophthalmologist, towards deciding on what the next steps will be in preserving your sight.
Early detection of AMD is critical to slowing down vision loss as a result. In some cases treatment might even improve vision.