Age-related macular degeneration: Do you know how to spot the signs?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that usually develops in people over 50, but it can affect people much younger than that.

The NHS estimates that in the UK 462,000 people are experiencing some degree of AMD. Furthermore that number is set to triple in the next fifteen years as the population of adults aged above sixty-five doubles.

Despited being most common in older people macular degeneration can start at a much earlier age due to a variety of risk factors. These include uncontrollable elements such as genetics and gender as well as changeable lifestyle choices like exercise, diet, and smoking.

As the number of AMD cases rises it is becoming increasingly important that people, no matter their age or state of health, become more alert to the signs of macular degeneration.

Spotting macular degeneration

AMD affects an area of the eye known as the macula, responsible for central vision. As the macula suffers damage a person will lose high-resolution sight in the centre of the eye. Despite AMD rarely leading to complete blindness it can cause severe problems with common-place tasks such as identifying faces and dialling telephones.

Symptoms differ from individual to individual, but most often people report problems with seeing small details. This may develop slowly but will sometimes occur rapidly, most often in both eyes.

Other symptoms:

  • increased sensitivity to bright light
  • blurred central vision
  • hallucinating colours or shapes in the central vision
  • distorted vision, particularly when looking at straight lines
  • colours appear duller
  • blind spots known as scotoma

If you suffer from or begin to develop any of the above symptoms it is essential that you seek medical advice from an optometrist. From there they will be able to dispense advice and medications, plus they will be able to recommend you to an ophthalmologist if needed.

Get your eyes tested

Occasionally changes in vision can warn you about the development of AMD but the condition can also begin years before symptoms appear. In order to protect your eyesight it is recommended that you have your eyes examined by a professional annually.

Tests are available to detect macular degeneration before the disease does permanent damage to the macula. The quickest accurate way of reading macular pigment is with an MPS II screener, which will give a reliable result within 90 seconds. This allows optometrists to treat a patient within the same appointment, ultimately giving them the ability to treat more patients at a lower cost compared to traditional macular pigment screenings.

More information

Learn more about the MPS II macular pigment screener on the ophthalmic pages of the Elektron Healthcare website.

Please see the NHS website to find out how AMD can be treated in the UK.

[Image credit: The Science of AMD]

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