The early signs of AMD can appear from the age of 50, although significant symptoms and vision loss are unusual before the age of 65.
The key risk factors for AMD are: age, family history, smoking and poor diet.
The regular use of an Amsler grid, one eye at a time, while wearing normal reading glasses, can help to detect sudden changes in central vision. This may indicate the progression of AMD. While helpful, an Amsler grid does not substitute for regular eye tests.
In Australia, about 15% of people over the age of 50 (or 1.2 million people) have some evidence of AMD. It is Australia’s leading cause of legal blindness and serious vision loss.
The risk of AMD increases significantly with age, with over 30% of people in their 80s having the disease
As the disease progresses, symptoms may include: difficulty reading fine print, distortions such as straight lines appearing wavy or bent, difficulty seeing faces and dark patches or empty spaces appearing in the central vision.
Other symptoms may include reduced colour vision and poor night time vision.
Early AMD can progress into late stage “dry” AMD (also called geographic atrophy) in which vision loss normally occurs over many years, but can eventually be significant.
The wet form of AMD affects approximately 10-15% of individuals with AMD, but accounts for approximately 90% of all cases of severe vision loss from the disease. In wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels under the RPE begin to grow and leak blood or fluid under and sometimes into the retinal cells at the macula. This can also lead to permanent scarring of the retina. Wet AMD can develop very quickly.
There is no cure for wet AMD, but treatment with regular anti-VEGF injections into the eye may stop or slow the progression of severe loss of vision. In order to preserve vision, it is essential that treatment commence as soon as possible after bleeding starts and that injections are maintained – possibly for life.
Other forms of macular degeneration can occur in much younger people although these are generally due to a genetic condition. At this time, 2RT® is not indicated for these younger onset forms of the disease.