Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

Many people in the UK are affected by this visual impairment.

 

What are the symptoms?

AMD can make things like reading, watching TV, driving or recognising faces difficult.

Other symptoms include:

  • Seeing straight lines as wavy or crooked
  • Objects looking smaller than normal
  • Colours seeming less bright than they used to
  • Seeing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)

What causes it?

As you get older, the circulation in your eyes can become poor and lead to a build-up of waste products in the macular region of the retina. The result of this build-up is that your eyes will not work as well as they once did.

The exact cause is unknown. Research links these changes to smoking, high blood pressure, being overweight and having a family history of AMD.

What is the macular region of the retina?

The retina is at the back of the eye. Pictures of things it sees are sent to the brain. The macula is a special part of the retina, which picks up all the fine detail.

How does macular degeneration affect sight?

  • Things you see may be blurred, especially in the centre.
  • Difficulties in seeing bus numbers or recognising people’s faces.
  • Straight lines may look curved.
  • You may notice blank areas when looking at the TV or text.

Is this the start of blindness?

The macula is the part of the eye that sees detail, so the fine vision will be affected. However, the rest of your vision will be unaffected. It doesn’t cause total blindness. But it can make everyday activities like reading and recognising faces difficult.

Is there treatment available?

Treatment depends on the type of AMD you have.

  • Dry AMD – There is no treatment, but vision aids can help reduce the effect on your life. There is plenty of advice and charities which can offer information for families and individuals regarding Living with dry AMD. Managing visual expectations and limitations is a big part of 
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  • Wet AMD – You may need regular eye injections and, very occasionally, a light treatment called “photodynamic therapy” to stop your vision getting worse.

Is there any help for anyone with AMD to see better?

Your GP or optometrist can refer you to the Low Vision Clinic at the hospital, which offer visual aids and information.

Speak to your eye specialist about a referral to a low-vision clinic if you’re having difficulty with daily activities.

For example, they can talk to you about:

  • Useful devices – such as magnifying lenses
  • Changes you can make to your home – such as brighter lighting
  • Software and mobile apps that can make computers and phones easier to use

If you have poor vision in both eyes, your specialist may refer you for a type of training called eccentric viewing training.

This involves learning techniques that help make the most of your remaining vision.