The macula is the area at the back of your eye that you use for seeing fine detail such as reading a book.

Macular degeneration affects your ability to do certain tasks such as reading and watching television, but does not affect your ability to walk around as your peripheral vision is not affected.

AMD can be classified as ‘dry’ or ‘wet’. In dry AMD, deposits called drusen build up behind the macula, which over time slowly damage the macula. There is currently no treatment for dry AMD. In wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels begin to grow behind the macula and leak fluid, pushing the macula away from its blood supply. Wet AMD causes a more rapid loss of vision, however this type of AMD is treatable if detected early.

In the early stages of AMD you may not experience any symptoms. As the condition progresses, common symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision e.g. difficulty reading
  • A ‘smudge’ in the centre of your vision
  • Straight lines appearing distorted or wavy
  • Colours appearing faded

Several risk factors for AMD have been identified, they include:

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight, having high blood pressure or a diet that is high in fat
  • Long-term exposure to UV light
  • Having a family history of the condition

Making lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and wearing UV-blocking glasses may reduce your risk of developing AMD. A diet low in fat and rich in colourful fruit and vegetables may also reduce your risk. Dietary supplements are available that are designed to slow the progression of AMD. You should ask your optometrists for information and advice on these.

For patients with AMD, there are several ways of managing changes to your vision. Lighting is very important and a good light can make reading easier. Special magnifiers can help with certain tasks, and organisations like the RNIB or local social services can provide support and equipment to help with day-to-day tasks.