Age-Related Macular Degeneration Symptoms and Causes

A senior woman pinches the bridge of her nose in discomfort

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss for Americans over age 65, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Macular degeneration affects at least 11 million Americans, and that number is expected to double by 2050. While blindness is rare in AMD, it can cause severe central vision loss. This makes it difficult to read, recognize faces, drive, or perform routine tasks. Don’t let macular degeneration steal your sight. Florida Eye Specialists’ Retinal Disease team is here to help patients understand the causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

Wet vs. Dry Macular Degeneration 

For patients suffering from AMD, the part of the retina called the macula is damaged. AMD primarily affects central vision, causing blurred or wavy vision and blind spots directly ahead. There are two types of AMD—wet and dry. Nearly 80 percent of patients who suffer from macular degeneration have the “dry” type of the disease. These patients often first notice blurred vision or a central blind spot that gradually increases in size over the span of a few years. Dry AMD is typically less severe than wet AMD and progresses slowly. 

Patients with wet AMD, however, will experience symptoms at a much more rapid pace. Some notice a dramatic change seemingly overnight. It occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow beneath the retina and begin to leak, sometimes causing a large blind spot in the middle of one’s vision. This type of vision loss can be severe and irreversible if left untreated, making early detection critical.

Those who suffer from dry AMD are also at an increased risk of developing wet AMD. That’s why patients with either form must continue regular eye exams to preserve vision.

Macular Degeneration Causes 

While scientists have not determined the exact cause of age-related macular degeneration, evidence suggests that genetics and environment play a role. People over the age of 60 are most vulnerable to the disease, especially if they have a family history of AMD. Other causes include tobacco use, high blood pressure (hypertension), a high-fat diet, light-colored eyes, and high sun exposure. 

Macular Degeneration Symptoms 

There may be no symptoms until the disease has begun to progress or is affecting both eyes. That’s why annual eye exams are recommended for all patients over age 60, so the condition can be caught early. Often, the first symptom a patient notices is a blurred or distorted vision in the center of their visual field. They may also notice that straight lines no longer seem completely straight. Other symptoms include blind spots, reduced central vision, and difficulty adapting to low light levels.

Macular Degeneration Treatment

While there is no cure for the condition, annual eye exams are key to preventing vision loss. Our Jacksonville eye specialists work with patients to provide vision rehabilitation programs. We commonly prescribe medications or give ocular injections that inhibit new blood vessels. Diet changes and a combination of vitamins and minerals have also been found to help slow the progression of vision loss in some patients. 

Dr. McGregor N. Lott of Florida Eye Specialists is a fellowship-trained medical retina specialist. In addition to exceptional retina care, Dr. Lott provides comprehensive ophthalmic eye care for his patients. If you or a loved one think you may be suffering from age-related macular degeneration, schedule a consultation appointment today with Dr. Lott. 

Additionally, Florida Eye Specialists’ board-certified, fellowship-trained physicians participate in clinical research trials to contribute to the advancement of eye care. Trials include treatment for wet AMD. If you are interested in learning more about cutting-edge treatments, reach out to our Clinical Research Coordinator, Jillian Smith at 904-701-1281 ext. 1110.

About Florida Eye Specialists

Florida Eye Specialists is one of the largest multi-specialty ophthalmology private practices in Northeast Florida, with offices in Fernandina Beach, Gate Parkway/295, Mandarin, Northside, Ponte Vedra Beach, Riverside, San Marco, Southpoint, and St. Augustine. 

Florida Eye Specialists is a comprehensive eye care practice that features a complete spectrum of ophthalmology services. Our surgical services include cataract surgery, LASIK eye surgery, corneal procedures, glaucoma treatment options, oculoplastic eyelid surgery, dry eye treatment, and even cosmetic and skin care services. Schedule an appointment at one of our nine locations.