A recent study commissioned by Specsavers and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has shown that 250 people start to lose their sight in the UK every day. Following these alarming statistics, East Dereham and Fakenham store director, Michael Meller, has shared his advice on how to watch out for one of the most common eye conditions, AMD. 

What is AMD? 

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a painless eye condition that causes loss of central vision, commonly in both eyes. This vision becomes gradually more intensely blurred leading to difficulty reading, recognising people’s faces and colours becoming less vibrant.

The condition can come on both gradually and rapidly – however, it doesn’t affect your peripheral vision, meaning it will not cause complete blindness. 

How can I tell if I have AMD?

If your vision is starting to deteriorate, your vision spontaneously gets worse, images are distorted or you start noticing blind spots, you should visit your local optician straight away. 

What causes AMD?

Age-related macular degeneration develops when the macula (the part of the eye responsible for central vision) is unable to function effectively.

As the name suggests, the condition becomes more likely the older you become. However, there are lots of different risk-factors that can contribute towards the condition including:
•    Family history
•    Sunlight
•    High blood pressure and heart disease
•    Alcohol consumption
•    Smoking

Are there different types?

There are two types of AMD:
- Dry AMD: This type develops once cells of the macula become damaged as a result of build-up of deposits called drusen. Dry AMD is the most common and least damaging type, with 9 out of 10 AMD sufferers being diagnosed with the condition. However, 1 in 10 people with dry AMD do go on to develop wet AMD.

- Wet AMD: Otherwise known as neovascular AMD, the wet version develops once abnormal blood vessels form underneath the macula, damaging its cells. This condition is more severe than dry AMD as without treatment, your central vision can be lost within days. 

How is it treated?

Currently neither type of AMD have a found cure. To treat dry AMD, a professional will aim to help the sufferer make the most of their remaining vision with special aids such as magnifying lenses to aid reading. Some research has shown a healthy diet rich in leafy green vegetables can slow the deterioration involved in dry AMD. 

When treating wet AMD, typically an anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) medication is used. This stops further blood vessels developing in order to stop vision deteriorating further. In other cases, laser surgery can also destroy abnormal blood vessels. The best way to prevent the risk of severe vision loss is early diagnosis and treatment of wet AMD, which can be picked up in a simple 20 minute eye test at your local opticians. 

How can I prevent/reduce my risk of the condition?

As there is no single known cause of either types of AMD it’s not always possible to prevent the condition. The development of AMD is closely linked to age and family history. However, following the potential risk factors above, the following may help reduce the risk or further development of the condition:
•    Quit smoking
•    Eat a healthy, balanced diet including fruit and vegetables, especially leafy greens
•    Moderate your alcohol consumption
•    Maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle
•    Wear UV-protected glasses/sunglasses when outside for long periods

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