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Opening Your Eyes to Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

age related macular degeneration

What is AMD?

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a cumbersome word which often strikes my patients with fear, but there need not be this kind of apprehension about such a condition, as it entails a fairly straightforward treatment plan and there are also many methods for treating it should the initial course of action not be successful.

What is the cause?

AMD is a condition which arises due to age. It affects one’s central vision which can cause vision loss often amongst people over the age of 60. However, due to it being only the centre of one’s vision that is affected, it rarely actually causes blindness.

What is Central Vision?

This is the vision which is required by activities that require fine vision, such as driving and reading. It is enabled by the macula, which is the light centre of the retina. Light rays travel through the cornea, through the lens and then reach one point of focus; the macula. Because of this central vision, the macula is basically the most important part of the eye.

What are the different types of Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

There are two types of AMD; Dry AMD and Wet AMD. These two conditions vary, so it is crucial that one understands the difference between them, as they are treated in greatly different ways.

Dry AMD:

If your doctor looks at the back of the eye and it looks like metal that has been beaten, this is Dry AMD. This essentially means that the macula has dry spots on it. Although there is nothing really that can be done about this, this condition does not get worse over time and for this reason patients should not worry as it is a condition that can generally be lived with quite easily.

Wet AMD:

On the other hand, Wet AMD occurs when fluid accumulates in the macula, due to age. This fluid causes vision to be distorted, even with a patient’s best corrected glasses. The back of the eye can be scanned to ascertain how much fluid is in the macula; fluid which will then need to be eliminated.

How is it treated?

This is done through the use of medication, which can be administered into the eye in order to absorb the fluid over a period of time. Avastin is one of the medications used to do this, however, some people do need several series of administrations of this medication and can require a different kind of medication for treatment, which can be used if necessary. More often than not, three sessions of Avastin, one month apart, is adequate.

What does this procedure entail?

Now for the part that scares most patients: the actual procedure where the Avastin is administered. This condition might initially sound overwhelming, but in reality, treating Wet AMD is a not a painful procedure at all and is exceptionally quick. The area will be completely anaesthetised, and a small speculum will be used to keep the eye open. The whole procedure takes about 5-10 minutes but the preparation and the disinfection takes longer. All the patient will see is moving fluid as the doctor is doing the procedure. The eye may be a bit scratchy immediately after the procedure, but lubricant drops will be given to prevent this, which the patient can use as much as they like.

What should one expect afterwards?

It is important to note that the patient must not expect their vision to improve or be cured immediately, as this initial procedure needs to be done three times over a period of three months for progression to start showing.

Optometrist, Rianda Gilliland explains what you need to know about AMD


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