Age-Related Vision Loss

Winter 2003 CSANews Issue 49  |  Posted date : May 02, 2007.Back to list

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in people over 65 and the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over 50.

What is AMD?
At the back of your eye, in the centre of your retina is the macula, which is made up of light sensitive cells. When you look at something, light is focused onto these cells, which lets your brain know what you are seeing. As we age, the macula weakens and its cells begin to break down. Both distance and close-up vision will begin to fade. Central vision can be heavily affected, while peripheral vision frequently remains the same. Daily activities such as reading or driving can become difficult. In AMD, the macula is damaged ­ either by a buildup of waste deposits or by leaky blood vessels ­ resulting in central vision loss.

Types of Macular Degeneration
The two types of macular degeneration are "dry" and "wet".

Dry macular degeneration is the most prevalent form of the disease. It affects about 90% of those with AMD. A common indication of AMD risk is the existence of drusen. Drusen are yellow deposits found in the retina. As drusen increase in size or number, the risk of vision loss increases.

Wet macular degeneration accounts for about 10% of all diagnosed cases. Caused by abnormal blood vessels forming at the back of the eye, these vessels will leak fluid or blood and blur central vision. The resulting vision loss can be rapid and severe.

AMD often starts in one eye and then progresses to the other eye. Eye Care Professionals screen for and can diagnose AMD during your eye examination.

The most common signs are slightly blurred vision, a dark spot in the centre of your vision, or difficulty reading in dim light or recognizing faces until they are close to you. If only one eye has AMD, you may not notice any symptoms at all, which is why it's so important to see your eye care professional annually after age 55. After AMD starts in one eye, it often may progress to the other eye.

Protecting Your Eyesight
There are things you can do to protect your eyesight.

  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Wear sunglasses
  • Don't smoke
  • Exercise regularly
  • Talk to your eye care professional about vitamins and minerals specially formulated for eye-health
  • Get regular eye exams