Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a common eye condition that affects the central vision in one or both eyes. Central vision is what allows us to perform most daily tasks that require the vision of details such as reading, watching TV, or distinguishing faces.
What causes Age-related Macular Degeneration?
AMD occurs due to changes to the macula (the central part of the retina), which causes it to malfunction. There are two types of AMD: ‘Dry’ Atrophic AMD and ‘Wet’ Exudative AMD.
This is the most common form of AMD, also known as Geographic Atrophy. It causes a gradual loss of central vision due to the deterioration of the cells responsible for vision in the macula.
Wet AMD is the less common form of AMD and usually develops faster than dry AMD. Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels develop in the macula. The leaking of blood and fluid from these blood vessels usually damage the macula, resulting in decreased vision.
Signs and Symptoms
You should seek urgent medical advice if: your vision gets worse, you notice blind spots or, images become distorted.
How is AMD diagnosed?
At the London Vision Clinic, Prof. Stanga uses innovative technology for the early diagnosis of this condition, such as the new higher resolution Swept-Source Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) and Angiography, as well as Optos® Ultra-Widefield Multi-Wavelength retinal imaging.
AMD is diagnosed through:
Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT): This is a non-invasive test similar to an ultrasound that uses light instead of sound. An OCT can show whether there is fluid accumulating in the macula, as well as help to monitor progress after treatment by measuring the thickness of the retinal tissue. This test is performed at every visit. Prof. Stanga uses the new higher resolution Swept-Source OCT technology which also allows the visualisation of abnormalities in the retinal vessels.
Fundus Fluorescein Angiography (FFA): A small amount of yellow fluorescein dye is injected into a vein in your arm. The dye travels to your eye, where it highlights the blood vessels. It is particularly useful in showing leaking blood vessels as well as highlighting areas of poor blood supply. Photographs of the back of the eye are taken while the fluorescein is flowing. Prof. Stanga uses Optos® Ultra-Widefield technology which allows for the visualisation of a significantly larger area of the retina compared to standard photography.
Fundus Auto Fluorescence (FAF): This is a non-invasive test which uses the light of a specific wavelength or colour to highlight the presence of dry AMD before it is visible by normal examination. This test is also helpful in assessing the progression of the disease. Prof. Stanga also uses the Optos® Ultra-Widefield technology for FAF imaging.
Treatment of AMD
There is currently no treatment available for established Dry AMD. Some laser-based treatments are becoming available to perhaps slow down its progression. Prof. Stanga can discuss this further with you if applicable. Please note that Dry AMD must still be monitored as it can turn into Wet AMD.
Wet AMD can be treated by injecting the eye with anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) drugs. These drugs can stabilise your vision. Improvement in vision can sometimes be achieved if treatment is started early. Early detection of wet AMD is therefore paramount for reducing the risk of severe vision loss.
Reducing your risk
It is not always possible to reduce the risk of developing Macular Degeneration as it is closely linked to your age and likely has a genetic factor. However, you may be able to reduce your risk of developing this condition by consuming a healthy and balanced diet and not smoking.