Macular Degeneration Testing
Our eye doctors at Northwest Hills Eye Care diagnose age-related macular degeneration in its earliest stages, often before symptoms or vision loss occurs. While there is no cure for age-related macular degeneration, early detection and treatment of this disease can minimize or even prevent vision loss.
What is age-related macular degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a progressive eye disease that damages the macula, leading to a decline in central vision. This condition typically affects people over the age of 50 and is one of the leading causes of vision loss among older adults. While AMD does not cause total blindness, it can significantly impact daily activities such as reading, driving, and recognizing faces.
Causes of AMD
Although the exact cause of AMD is not yet fully understood, it is believed to be a result of a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Oxidative stress, inflammation, and the aging process are thought to play key roles in the development and progression of this condition.
Risk factors for AMD
The most significant risk factor for age-related macular degeneration is age. People aged 50 and older are at increased risk of developing AMD over younger groups. Other risk factors include having a family history of AMD, being Caucasian, and smoking. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and spending a lot of time in the sun without proper eye protection also increase your risk of developing AMD.
Since there are no symptoms in the early stages of AMD, you should see an eye doctor regularly, especially if you have a family history of AMD or other risk factors.
Symptoms of AMD
AMD affects the central vision, and its symptoms may vary depending on the type and stage of the condition. It is essential to recognize the signs of AMD early on, as early detection and intervention can help manage the condition more effectively.
Some common symptoms of AMD include:
Blurred or distorted central vision
This is often the first noticeable symptom of AMD. Straight lines may appear wavy or bent, and objects in the center of vision may appear blurry or unclear.
Difficulty recognizing faces
As AMD affects the central vision, it may become challenging to recognize people’s faces, especially from a distance.
Dark or empty areas in central vision
Individuals with AMD may notice a dark or empty area in the center of their vision, which can impact daily activities such as reading or driving.
Reduced visual acuity
A gradual decline in the sharpness of your central vision can be a sign of AMD.
Diminished color perception
AMD can cause colors to appear less vibrant or washed out, making it difficult to distinguish between different shades.
Difficulty adapting to changes in light
People with AMD may find it challenging to adjust to changes in lighting conditions, such as going from a bright environment to a dim one, or vice versa.
Types of AMD
There are two main types of AMD: dry (atrophic) and wet (neovascular).
- Dry AMD: The most common form, dry AMD, accounts for approximately 85-90% of cases. It is characterized by the gradual thinning and deterioration of the macula, resulting in a slow decline in central vision. Dry AMD typically affects both eyes, although the severity may differ between eyes.
- Wet AMD: Less common but more severe, wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow beneath the retina and leak fluid or blood, leading to rapid and significant vision loss.
Testing for AMD
At Northwest Hills Eye Care in Austin, TX, our eye care professionals can detect AMD during a comprehensive eye exam. The exam may include:
- Dilated eye exam: Your optometrist will use eye drops to dilate your pupils, allowing for a more detailed examination of the retina and macula.
- Amsler grid test: This simple test helps identify any distortions or irregularities in your central vision.
- Optical coherence tomography (OCT): This non-invasive imaging test provides detailed cross-sectional images of the retina, allowing your doctor to detect and monitor any changes.
Treatment for AMD
While there is currently no cure for AMD, various treatments can help slow its progression and manage symptoms. Treatment options for dry AMD are mainly focused on lifestyle changes and nutritional supplements, such as the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) formulation containing antioxidants and zinc, which has been shown to reduce the progression of AMD in some patients. Treatment options for wet AMD include anti-VEGF injections, which help block the growth of abnormal blood vessels, as well as laser therapy and photodynamic therapy (PDT) in some cases.