Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) usually affects people over 60, but can happen earlier. It is the most common cause of sight loss in the developed world. In the UK over 600,000 people are affected.
Dry AMD causes a gradual deterioration of the macula, usually, over many years, as the retinal cells die off and are not regenerated. The name ‘dry’ does not mean the person has dry eyes just that the condition is not ‘wet’ AMD. Around 10 to 15% of people with dry AMD go on to develop wet AMD. If you have dry AMD and notice a sudden change in your vision, it is important that you contact your optometrist, or hospital eye specialist, urgently. If you have AMD in one eye, the other eye may also be affected within a few years.
In wet AMD abnormal blood vessels grow into the macula and leak blood or fluid which leads to scarring of the macula and rapid loss of central vision. Wet AMD can develop very suddenly. It can now be treated if caught quickly. Fast referral to a hospital specialist is essential.
Macular degeneration affects different people in different ways. You may not notice any change in your vision during the early stages, especially if you have AMD in only one eye. However, as macular cells deteriorate, your ability to see clearly will change:
- Straight lines such as door frames and lampposts may appear distorted or bent
- Vision may become blurry or develop gaps
- Objects in front of you may change shape, size, colour or seem to move or disappear
- Dark spots, such as a smudge on glasses, could appear in the centre of your vision
- Colours can fade
- You may find bright light glaring and uncomfortable
- You may find it difficult to adapt from dark to light environments
- Words might disappear when you are reading
AMD is painless, so if you have eye pain seek urgent medical advice.
Download Guide to AMD for more information.