What is AMD?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an acquired degeneration of the retina that causes significant central visual impairment and progressive visual loss. It is thought to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. AMD is the leading cause of blindness in Australians over 60 years old. It is estimated there are over 1 million Australians with signs of AMD, and this may rise to 1.7 million over the next 15 years.
Types of AMD
There are two main types of age-related macular degeneration:
1. Dry (Non-neovascular) AMD: this is the more common of the two types, and is characterized by the deposition of waste material under the retinal pigment epithelium, known as “drusen”. The prevalence of drusen increases with increasing age. Dry AMD is characterised by a gradual reduction in the central vision over many months or years. It normally affects both eyes similarly, although one may be worse than the other. While there is no current treatment for dry AMD, a healthy macular diet is important to slow the risk of progression.Some patients might benefit from vitamin supplementation to delay the progression of dry AMD.
2. Wet (Neovascular) AMD: This is the less common of the two types, but leads to more sudden and severe loss of central vision if left untreated. In wet AMD, a new blood vessel grows under the retina and can leak fluid or bleed into the retina, impairing the ability of the retina to function normally. It is crucial that wet AMD be detected at an early stage. The sooner it is diagnosed and treatment started, the better chance for visual improvement. Diagnosis of wet AMD is made through a combination of clinical examination, optical coherence tomography imaging (OCT) and fluorescein angiography. Treatment of wet AMD consists of regular injections of medication into the eye, known as intravitreal injection therapy.
These medications have revolutionised the treatment of wet AMD, and have led to much better outcomes for patients with this condition. Over 90% of patients should stabilise their vision with treatment, and about 1 in 3 patients may notice an improvement in their vision even after two years.
The injections are performed using a sterile technique by our highly experienced retinal specialists. The injection is conducted in the procedure room in our clinic, and takes about 10 minutes to perform. There is very little pain felt during or after the injection. Our specialists will discuss this with you in detail should you require this treatment.
Factors that can affect AMD
AMD is thought to occur due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. While we cannot change the genes we are born with, there are a number of measures patients can undertake to reduce the risk of vision impairment from macular degeneration.
1. Routine eye exams: Regular eye checks can help to detect early stages of AMD, and increase your awareness of the warning symptoms of this condition. Amsler grid monitoring is a very useful tool to detect early distortion associated with wet AMD. Please ask us about this during your consultation.
2. Stop smoking: People who smoke are more likely to develop macular degeneration and experience more severe visual impairment from this condition. Discuss ways to help stop smoking with your general practitioner, pharmacist or the Quit Helpline.
3. Healthy macular diet: Choose a healthy diet full of a variety of green leafy vegetables, fish, fresh fruit and a handful of nuts. These foods contain antioxidants and vitamins that may reduce your risk of macular degeneration. In particular, vegetables such as kale, spinach, broccoli, and peas have high levels of antioxidants, including lutein and zeaxanthin.
4. Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. If you need to lose weight, reduce the number of calories you eat and increase the amount of exercise you get each day.
5. Manage your other diseases. For example, if you have cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure, take your medication and follow your doctor’s instructions for controlling the condition.
For more information, please see the Macular Degeneration Foundation website –