Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
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What is AMD?Back to top
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common condition that affects the middle part of your vision. It usually first affects people in their 50s and 60s.
- It does not cause total blindness. But it can make everyday activities like reading and recognising faces difficult.
- Without treatment, your vision may get worse. This can happen gradually over several years (“dry AMD”), or quickly over a few weeks or months (“wet AMD”).
- The exact cause is unknown. It’s been linked to smoking, high blood pressure, being overweight and having a family history of AMD.
SymptomsBack to top
The first symptom is often a blurred or distorted area in your vision.
If it gets worse, you may struggle to see anything in the middle of your vision.
- seeing straight lines as wavy or crooked
- objects looking smaller than normal
- colours seeming less bright than they used to
- seeing things that are not there (hallucinations)
AMD is not painful and does not affect the appearance of your eyes.
Information: Sometimes AMD may be found during a routine eye test before you have symptoms.
See an optician if you’re worried about your vision
If you have a problem with your eyes, early diagnosis and treatment may help stop your vision getting worse.
Get an urgent opticians appointment if:Back to top
- your vision gets suddenly worse
- you have a dark “curtain” or shadow moving across your vision
- your eye is red and painful
These are not symptoms of AMD, but can be signs of other eye problems that need to be treated immediately.
Go to A&E or call 111 straight away if you cannot get an urgent appointment.
What happens at your opticians appointmentBack to top
You’ll be seen by a specialist called an optometrist.
They’ll use a magnifying glass with a light to look at the back of your eyes and check your vision.
They may put drops in your eyes to make it easier for them to spot any problems. These can make your vision blurry for a few hours.
Do not drive until your vision goes back to normal. This may take 4 to 6 hours.
What happens if you're diagnosed with AMDBack to top
If you’re diagnosed with AMD, the specialist will talk to you about what it is, what type you have and what the treatment options are.
- Caused by a build-up of a fatty substance called drusen at the back of the eyes
- Gets worse gradually – usually over several years
- No treatment – unless it develops into wet AMD
- Caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels at the back of the eyes
- Less common
- Can get worse quickly – sometimes in days or weeks
- Treatment can help stop vision getting worse
It might be difficult to take in everything the specialist tells you.
If you’re unsure about something later, write down any questions you have and make another appointment to go over them.
TreatmentBack to top
Treatment depends on the type of AMD you have.
- Dry AMD – there’s no treatment, but vision aids can help reduce the effect on your life. Read about living with AMD.
- Wet AMD – you may need regular eye injections and, very occasionally, a light treatment called photodynamic therapy, to stop your vision getting worse.
Anti-VEGF medicines – ranibizumab (Lucentis), aflibercept (Eylea) and brolucizumab (Beovu)
Injections given directly into the eyes:
- stops vision getting worse in 9 out of 10 people and improves vision in 3 out of 10 people
- usually given every 1, 2 or 3 months for as long as necessary
- drops numb the eyes before treatment – most people have minimal discomfort
- side effects include bleeding in the eye, feeling like there’s something in the eye, and redness and irritation of the eye
Photodynamic therapy (PDT)
A light is shined at the back of the eyes to destroy the abnormal blood vessels that cause wet AMD:
- may be recommended alongside eye injections if injections alone do not help
- usually needs to be repeated every few months
- side effects include temporary vision problems, and the eyes and skin being sensitive to light for a few days or weeks
Living with AMDBack to top
Help with low vision
Speak to your eye specialist about a referral to a low-vision clinic if you’re having difficulty with daily activities.
Staff at the clinic can give useful advice and practical support.
For example, they can talk to you about:
- useful devices – such as magnifying lenses
- changes you can make to your home – such as brighter lighting
- software and mobile apps that can make computers and phones easier to use
If you have poor vision in both eyes, your specialist may refer you for a type of training called eccentric viewing training.
This involves learning techniques that help make the most of your remaining vision.
AMD is often linked to an unhealthy lifestyle.
If you have it, try to:
There’s some evidence to suggest that certain health supplements might help stop AMD getting worse, but this is not definitive.
Speak to a GP or your specialist if you’re considering taking supplements for AMD. They’re not suitable for everyone.
AMD can make it unsafe for you to drive. Ask your specialist if they think you should stop driving.
You’re required by law to tell DVLA about your condition if:
- it affects both eyes
- it only affects 1 eye but your remaining vision is below the minimum standards of vision for driving
Monitoring and check-ups
You’ll have regular check-ups with a specialist to monitor your condition.
Contact your specialist as soon as possible if your vision gets worse or you notice any new symptoms.
Keep having routine eye tests (usually every 2 years). They can pick up other eye problems that your check-ups do not look for.
Registering as sight impaired
If your vision continues to get worse, you may want to consider registering your sight loss.
This can make it easier to claim financial benefits, such as help with health costs.
Your specialist can check your vision and complete an official certificate if you meet the requirements to be registered.
See a GP if you’ve been feeling low for more than 2 weeks. They can offer support and treatment if you need it.
InformationBack to top
In addition to support from your specialist, you may find it useful to use support groups such as:
- Macular Society: support services – contact their helpline on 0300 3030 111
- RNIB: sight loss advice service – contact their helpline on 0303 123 9999
Contains information from the NHS, England, licenced under the current version of the Open Government Licence
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