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Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Find out about Age-related Macular Degeneration by reading our information below. Click the questions to go directly to the answers:

What is Age-related macular degeneration?
Types of macular degeneration
What causes AMD?
What are the symptoms?
Diagnosing macular degeneration
Outlook
Treatments
How long will I have to wait?
Clinic Details

What is Age-related macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration is a painless eye condition that leads to the gradual loss of central vision (the ability to see what is directly in front). Central vision is used during activities such as reading, writing and driving. Macular degeneration occurs when the macula (the part of the eye that is responsible for central vision) is unable to function as effectively as it used to.

It does not affect the peripheral vision (outer vision), which means that the condition will not cause complete blindness.

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Types of macular degeneration

There are two types of macular degeneration:

  • dry macular degeneration (also called non-neovascular) affects the eyes gradually, and
  • wet macular degeneration (also called neovascular) can develop very quickly, and is more serious than dry macular degeneration

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What causes AMD?
At the moment the exact cause for AMD is not known. However there are a number of risk factors which have been identified

  • Age - the older you get, the more at risk you are of developing macular degeneration. The condition usually affects people who are over 50 years of age
  • Gender - macular degeneration is more common in women than it is in men
  • Genetics - it is thought that a problem with a certain gene may play a role in macular degeneration. However, the specific genetic problem has not yet been identified
  • Smoking - studies have shown that people who smoke, or who have smoked in the past, are nearly four times more likely to develop AMD than people who have never smoked
  • Sunlight - if you are exposed to lots of sunlight during your lifetime, your risk of developing macular degeneration may be increased
  • Alcohol - it is possible that drinking more than four units of alcohol a day may increase your risk of having early AMD

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What are the symptoms?
In the early stages your central vision may be blurred or distorted, with objects looking an unusual size or shape and straight lines appearing wavy or fuzzy. This may happen quickly or develop over several months. You may be very sensitive to light or actually see lights, shapes and colours that are not there. This may cause occasional discomfort. AMD is not painful.

Because AMD affects the centre of the retina, people with the advanced condition will often notice a blank patch or dark spot in the centre of their sight. This makes reading, writing and recognising small objects or faces very difficult.

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Diagnosing macular degeneration
If you are experiencing the symptoms of macular degeneration, you should either visit your GP, or make an appointment with an optometrist. If your GP, or optometrist, suspects that you have macular degeneration, you will be referred to an ophthalmologist. An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specialises in eye disease and its treatment.

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Outlook
Although AMD is the leading cause of visual impairment in the UK, almost everyone affected will have enough peripheral vision to continue their daily activities.

There is currently no treatment for dry macular degeneration, but rehabilitation techniques, such as using magnifying aids to read, can help people live with the condition. Dry AMD progresses very slowly, over several years.

Wet AMD is more serious. It is estimated that around 70% of people with wet AMD will experience severe loss of vision within two years of receiving their diagnosis. There are a number of treatment options available that can slow the progression of wet AMD and, in some cases, restore some of the lost vision. Treatment must be started as soon as possible.

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Treatments

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)
This treatment involves having a light-sensitive drug injected into a vein in your arm. The injection lasts around 10 minutes. The drug is able to identify the abnormal blood vessels in your macula (the part of your eye responsible for central vision). A ‘cold laser’ is then shone into the eye which activates the drug stopping the new blood vessels from growing and helping to prevent them causing too much damage to the macular area. You may need to have this treatment every few months to ensure that any new blood vessels that start growing are kept under control.

Anti-VEGF Medication
VEGF stands for 'vascular endothelial growth factor'. It is one of the chemicals that is responsible for the new blood vessels that form in the eye as a result of wet AMD. Anti-VEGF medicines work by blocking this chemical and stopping it from producing the blood vessels.

The anti-VEGF medication has to be injected into your eye using a very fine needle. You will be given a local anaesthetic (a painkilling medication) so the procedure does not hurt.  Anti-VEGF medication is primarily used to stop wet AMD from getting worse. However, in some cases, anti-VEGF medicines have also been shown to restore some of the sight which may have been lost as a result of macular degeneration. It is important to be aware that your sight will not be restored completely, and not everyone will experience an improvement.

The anti-VEGF medication you are likely to receive is called ranibizumab (the brand name is Lucentis).

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How long will I have to wait?
Our rapid access system will assure you will be seen as soon as possible from referral by your optometrist or GP.
 
Clinic Address Details
WWL Eye Unit
Wigan Health Centre
Boston House
Frog Lane
Wigan
WN6 7LB

Telephone: 01942 773116

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