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What Are the Early Warning Signs of Macular Degeneration?

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A senior female with macular degeneration overtime her vision becomes blurry.

Macular degeneration, often referred to as age-related macular degeneration or AMD, is a common eye disease, and the leading cause of vision loss in seniors.

Because of the slow onset of symptoms during the early and intermediate stages of AMD, many people don’t realize there is even a change in their vision. Noticeable symptoms of macular degeneration include blurry vision, blind spots, visual distortion, loss of contrast, and difficulty seeing in low light.

That’s why it’s so important to have regular eye exams—your eye doctor can detect the early signs of AMD sooner than you can on your own.

What Is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

AMD is a progressive eye disease that affects central vision and, as a result, the ability to see fine details. It affects 11 million people in the United States, impacting their ability to drive, read, watch TV, or recognize faces.

Macular degeneration is classified into 2 types: dry and wet. 

Dry Macular Degeneration

Dry AMD affects approximately 80% of those who have macular degeneration. Dry AMD happens when parts of the macula thin with age and tiny clumps of protein (known as drusen) form, causing you to gradually lose your central vision.

One or both eyes can be affected by dry macular degeneration. If only one eye is impacted, your good eye may compensate for the weak eye, so you might not notice changes in your vision.

Wet Macular Degeneration

It’s possible for dry AMD to develop into wet AMD. Typically, irregular blood vessels that leak fluid or blood into the macula are to blame, making wet AMD much more serious. You lose vision faster with wet AMD than you do with dry AMD.

Signs of Macular Degeneration

Knowing the signs of macular degeneration can help you identify if you are developing this condition.

Blurry Vision

AMD symptoms typically appear gradually. Over time, your eyesight becomes hazy, especially when attempting to focus on close-up objects. You might notice that:

  • You need more light to read
  • Small letters become difficult to read

Blind Spots In Your Vision

Some of the earliest AMD-related changes are often small blind spots in the center of your vision which may gradually grow and spread over time.

These small blind patches can begin to merge, impairing central vision.

Visual Distortions

Imagine reading text that appears to be bent or curved on a page. Or perhaps it’s the way the bathroom tiles, bookcases, or window blinds don’t look right. You might have AMD if lines that should be straight appear wavy.

It is important to seek an eye doctor right away when this symptom appears.

Loss of Ability to Detect Contrast

You may lose the capacity to distinguish subtle variations in texture, light, shadows, and other visual environment elements. Because of these restrictions, people may trip or fall because they don’t notice mild inclines, small steps, or other irregularities in their path.

Issues in Low Light

People who have AMD could notice that they take longer to adjust when going from brightly illuminated areas to dimly lit areas and vice versa. It might be particularly challenging to see when there are glares from wet roadways or glass.

An eye doctor is injecting Avastin in the eye of a patient with macular degeneration.

Living with AMD

Although there is no known treatment for macular degeneration, there are situations when it can be slowed down. If you have wet macular degeneration and new blood vessels are developing under your retina, laser surgery may be able to help. Certain vitamins may help if you have dry macular degeneration.

Additionally, there are drugs, like Avastin, that can be injected directly into the eye to reduce swelling that age-related macular degeneration causes.

Vitamins That May Help AMD

If you have intermediate AMD or late-stage AMD in one eye, research has shown that consuming certain high-dose vitamins and minerals, like vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and copper, can slow the disease’s progression. But that doesn’t mean you should overload yourself with these vitamins and minerals. Talk to your optometrist about how to help slow the effects of AMD.

Help with Vision Issues

Talk to your optometrist about what is available to help prevent your vision from declining. They can discuss ways you can help improve your life, like:

  • Using magnifying glasses
  • Improvements you can make to your house like installing brighter lighting
  • Software and mobile apps that can make using computers and phones simpler

Call Your Optometrist

AMD can cause a severe loss of central vision, which can make it challenging to read, drive, or carry out other daily tasks that call for fine central vision. If you experience blind spots, blurry vision, or are concerned about your ocular health, book an appointment with Dr. Taylor Bladh for a comprehensive eye exam.

Written by Total Vision

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