The Most Common Retinal Disease – 1 in 4 Europeans Over 60 Suffers from AMD
18th July 2019
We have previously talked about the retina, with a focus on the anatomy and its functions. In the future posts we are going to concentrate on eye conditions that affect the retina, starting from AMD.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
It’s a very common eye condition that affects the macula, the central part of the retina with a high concentration of light-sensitive receptors. People affected by AMD will start to have blurry and distorted vision and will progressively be deprived of their central vision. This happens because of yellow deposits that accumulate on the macula, which are made up of proteins and lipids, known as ‘drusen’. This accumulation is a normal age-related factor, however when the accumulation is in excess this could be a sign of early stage AMD.
According to the Macular Society in the UK and other sources, such as the Royal National Institute of Blind People, half a million people over 50 are affected by AMD, and it’s expected to reach more than 1 million in the next 10 years. Another research study which focused on the world-wide population, approximates that 30-50 million people suffer from AMD. However, there is an increase in these numbers mainly in Europe as the population lives longer and other genetic factors play a part. To put this in perspective, 1 in 4 Europeans over 60 is affected by AMD and, it has become one of the main factors causing vision loss and acute visual impairment.
AMD Symptoms in Vision
AMD affects the central part of the retina, therefore people affected by it will experience different degrees of central vision loss; including distortions, loss in contrast such as inability to distinguish colours that have a similar tone and blurry vision. Whereas not all cases of age-related macular degeneration cause total vision loss, in most cases people learn to compensate the central vision decrease with the peripheral vision.
AMD is divided into two main types, dry AMD and wet AMD, based on the stages when the macular degeneration occurs. Dry AMD is diagnosed in the early and intermediate stages and is considered to account for 80-90% of AMD cases. People affected by dry AMD may not experience a loss in vision, it depends on the amount of lipid and protein accumulation. In fact, in these stages the damage to the retina is caused by accumulations of medium-large drusen and pigment irregularities onto the macula, and it may progress slowly into late AMD also knows as wet AMD. In most cases wet AMD is the next step of dry AMD, but not necessarily. Wet AMD is a severe type caused by a rapid increase of blood vessels which break and cause haemorrhages in the eye. This may also cause irreparable damage to the retina very rapidly, and blindness if untreated.
Main Factors that Cause AMD
The main factor for AMD is unfortunately ageing! Genetics and family history may cause it, as well as lifestyle, such as diet, smoking and exposure to UV light. It’s important to have regular eye checks with your local optometrist or ophthalmologist to receive professional advice during your eye health check. The image shown in this post of mount Fuji in Japan, is an example of how people affected by age-related macular degeneration may see it.
More on retinal diseases will follow in our next posts.
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