Bent lines, a dark spot in the field of vision: with such visual disturbances you should go to the ophthalmologist as soon as possible. Even blindness can threaten.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a progressive death of the visual cells at the point of sharpest vision in the eye, the macula. The disease can also lead to blindness.
It affects a lot of people when they get older
“The risk of developing age-related macular degeneration increases significantly from the age of 60,” says Dr. Georg Eckert, ophthalmologist and press officer of the professional association of ophthalmologists in Germany (BVA). “As we age, almost everyone develops AMD at some point. It is the leading cause of blindness.”
“Cell waste” is deposited
The macula is the yellow spot in the center of the retina. Thanks to her, the eye can see sharply. But in old age deposits can form between the visual sensory cells, so-called “cellular waste”. This damages the sensory cells over the years. Ophthalmologists then speak of dry macular degeneration. It is the most common form.
However, there is a possibility that this will turn into wet macular degeneration. This leads to circulatory disorders, resulting in new blood vessels in the area of the macula. Blood serum or blood leaks from these growths. The retina swells and becomes moist. The sensory cells die. The insidious thing about wet macular degeneration: the loss of vision usually occurs quickly, sometimes within just a few days.
Take the warning signs of AMD seriously
The warning signs of AMD, both dry and wet, are blurred vision, a gray or black spot in the center of the field of vision, and distorted and wavy vision. The patient notices this above all when straight lines suddenly appear crooked or letters blur in front of his eyes. Contours often become blurred and color perception also becomes weaker.
A look at the bath tiles provides valuable information
“A good self-test is looking at the bathroom tiles,” says Eckert. “Take turns covering one eye and looking at the grid. If you notice a cloudiness in the middle of the field of vision or see the lines bent, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.”
It is important to take the test alternately with the left and right eye. Eckert explains it like this: If you look with both eyes, one eye compensates for the weakness of the other and you usually don’t notice the change.
Age-related macular degeneration cannot be cured
The earlier the warning signs are recognized and the disease diagnosed, the easier it is to influence the further course. After all, doctors cannot heal macular degeneration, they can only delay the deterioration in vision. “Medications are prescribed for the treatment and often special active ingredients are injected into the eye with a syringe. That usually works well – but only to a certain extent,” says Eckert. “If the eye disease is not treated, the patient only has the external field of vision and thus the possibility of orientation. It is no longer possible to see straight ahead.”
Stay away from cigarettes
But what can you do yourself to reduce the risk of AMD or, as a patient, to positively influence its course? “In the first step, it is important that you go to the ophthalmologist regularly and have your eyes examined, especially from the age of 60,” says Eckert. “You should also definitely stop smoking. Along with age, cigarettes are the number one risk factor for age-related macular degeneration.”
It is also important to protect your eyes from UV light and to keep blood pressure values within the normal range. A healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables, including carrots and spinach, is also important, Eckert said.