Vision is a precious gift, one that we don't tend to appreciate until it starts to fade. In our latest blog post, Dr Rupal Morjaria explores more about age-related macular degeneration, what causes it and delves into the exciting developments in its treatment.
Age-related macular degeneration is a chronic eye disease that gradually blurs central vision, making everyday tasks like reading, driving and even recognising faces difficult. It primarily affects the macula, the central part of the retina responsible for sharp, detailed vision. Unlike its counterpart, wet macular degeneration, which involves abnormal blood vessel growth beneath the retina, dry AMD progresses more slowly and is actually more common.
Symptoms of Dry Macular Degeneration
The early stages of AMD can often go unnoticed; however, as it progresses you may notice the following symptoms:
Blurred or distorted central vision
Reduced colour perception
Difficulty recognising faces
Increased sensitivity to glare
Decreased ability to read or perform close-up tasks
So what causes AMD?
As suggested by its name, age is the most significant risk factor, as the condition is most commonly diagnosed in those over the age of 50. The risk increases significantly as people reach their 60s and 70s. Family history also plays a role in AMD, so if a close relative has had the condition, your risk may be higher.
Smoking: A significant factor, with research showing it doubles the risk of developing AMD. It causes oxidative stress and inflammation in the retina, which damages the delicate cells in the macula and leads to vision loss. Quitting cigarettes reduces this oxidative stress.
Diet: Eating processed foods, high in saturated fats also play a part. In fact high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are all contributing factors, with women at slightly higher risk than men. Antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E, along with nutrients like zinc and lutein, can reduce risk, so opt for a diet rich in leafy greens, fruits.
UV Damage: Prolonged and unprotected exposure to UV light can lead to the formation of harmful free radicals in the eye, which contribute to oxidative stress and cellular damage in the retina. Wearing sunglasses with UV protection and taking other measures to shield your eyes from excessive sunlight can help.
Treating Dry Macular Degeneration
Lifestyle Changes: Although there is no cure for AMD, certain lifestyle changes we can adopt that help slow its progression while improve overall eye health:
A healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and lutein.
Smoking cessation to reduce oxidative stress on the retina.
Wearing sunglasses with UV protection to shield your eyes from harmful sun rays.
Low Vision Aids: Such as magnifiers and specialised reading glasses, can help make the most of your remaining vision for reading and other close-up tasks.
A Glimpse into the Future
In recent years, promising developments have been made to slow progression of the condition. This year, the FDA approved Syfovre, an innovative approach that holds significant potential, and we are currently awaiting for the thumbs up from NICE in the UK.
This cutting-edge, prescription injection helps regulate an over-activated part of the immune system in your eye. Clinical trials and research have shown promising results, suggesting it could significantly improve vision and quality of life for those with AMD.