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Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) refers to an eye disease that can make your central vision blurry. You can develop it as you age due to macular damage — the area of the eye responsible for sharp, central vision. The macula forms part of the retina where light-sensitive tissue lies.
AMD is a condition that affects many older adults, being the leading cause of vision loss. While AMD will not result in complete blindness, you can lose your central vision. Partial loss of this field of vision could make it more challenging to distinguish faces, read, drive, or do close-up work like cooking or fixing items around the house.
The severity of AMD can vary from one person to the next. This means that it may develop slowly or fast. If you experience early AMD, you may not even be aware of vision loss for a long time. Because of this, you should undergo regular eye exams to determine if you have this eye condition.
There are two types of macular degeneration: dry and wet. Dry macular degeneration is more common in people who are 50 years of age or older.
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AMD is a complex disease. Researchers and doctors still do not know the exact cause of AMD. Some believe that genetic components and environmental factors play a role in your susceptibility to the eye condition.
The following list details risks for AMD:
An estimated 1 in 20,000 children or teenagers will develop AMD, otherwise known as Stargardt disease. Although it is similar to AMD, researchers believe that genetics is the primary cause.
If you have macular degeneration, your symptoms may vary according to the disease stage. For example, dry AMD has three stages: early, intermediate, and late. Because AMD is progressive, symptoms will often get worse as time passes.
Here are the primary symptoms of AMD:
Macular degeneration takes the lead in the main causes of vision loss, affecting more than 10 million Americans.
If you believe you have AMD, you should visit your local eye clinic and speak with an eye doctor. You will undergo a comprehensive eye examination, including various tests, to rule out or diagnose the condition.
Different testing approaches include:
The Amsler grid test is one of the many standard tools used to perform a diagnosis. The grid consists of a single square composed of a grid pattern and a dot in the middle. The test helps identify problem spots in your field of vision.
You can perform the test at home or in your local eye clinic.
If you want to use the Amsler grid test correctly, follow these steps once a day, every day:
A person with AMD will not see the Amsler grid/chart the same way as a person without eye condition. If you have AMD, the grid could appear to have wavy lines or blank sports.
If this occurs, it is important to speak with an ophthalmologist immediately. Determining if you have AMD (and what stage of the disease) could help your eye doctor establish a treatment regimen immediately.
Current best practices will promote the use of an Amsler grid chart to test macular degeneration. However, according to a study, the sensitivity of Amsler Grid Charts can be less than 50%.3 This means that some individuals with macular degeneration may believe they do not have the condition when, in reality, they do.
However, despite this, the Amsler grid chart is a recommended tool to use. It is economical and can be performed at home daily. Until another adequate replacement comes about, the grid plus risk factors and other clinical history features could increase the probability of an accurate diagnosis.
If you believe you have AMD, you should visit your eye doctor. You can undergo other tests to help establish a proper diagnosis and start treatment, if necessary.
You cannot cure macular degeneration. It is a progressive disease. However, if you begin treatments and seek medical care, you can reduce symptom severity and slow disease progression.
Disease type and stage will determine the kind of treatment you will receive. In general, though, your healthcare provider may consider the following therapeutic approaches:
“Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Symptoms & Treatment.” Cleveland Clinic.
“AREDS/AREDS2 Frequently Asked Questions.” National Eye Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Boyd, Kierstan. “What Is Macular Degeneration?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 14 June 2021.
Crossland, Michael, and Gary Rubin. “The Amsler Chart: Absence of Evidence Is Not Evidence of Absence.” The British Journal of Ophthalmology, BMJ Group, Mar. 2007.
“Dry Macular Degeneration.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 8 May 2021.
“Have AMD? Save Your Sight with an Amsler Grid.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 26 May 2020.
“Macular Degeneration.” AOA.org.