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Blurred vision? It could be AMD

Edward P. Fitzpatrick, M.D. [January 20 2011]

If words on a page, faces, cars on the road or other objects start getting blurry, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) may be to blame. AMD is a condition in which the macula, the part of the eye that helps you see objects clearly, deteriorates, leaving you with blurred vision, making driving, reading and other tasks nearly impossible. And it's most common in people over age 50. Smokers, women, Caucasians and those who have family members with the disease are also at increased risk.

Keep an eye out
AMD has two forms, and symptoms vary.
Dry AMD. This is by far the more common type, affecting nearly 90 percent of AMD sufferers. Cells in the macula (in one eye or both) are destroyed slowly. The most common symptom is a blurry spot in your vision, but if you have AMD in only one eye, you may not have any vision changes. Dry AMD generally progresses slowly. AMD always starts out as the dry form, and can progress to the wet form.
Wet AMD. This is a more advanced disease, and vision loss comes on quickly. With wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula, lifting it up. The new blood vessels leak blood and fluid, damaging the macula. Seeing straight lines that appear wavy is a common symptom of wet AMD, and should be checked out by an eye doctor immediately.

Help is on the horizon
When you go for your eye exam and your eye doctor dilates your pupils, one of the things he or she is looking for is AMD. Dry AMD can't be reversed, but in some cases, it may not affect your vision. Taking a special combination of vitamins (A, C, E) and minerals (zinc and copper) may help, but it is important to speak with a physician or registered dietitian before starting such supplements as they relate to this condition. Treatment for wet AMD includes:
• Laser surgery. A beam of light is directed at the new blood vessels to destroy them, preventing additional vision loss.
• Injections. Drugs are injected into the eye to block the growth of abnormal blood vessels to slow vision loss and possibly restore sight. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may need these injections monthly.

Dr. Edward P. Fitzpatrick is a member of The Hospital of Central Connecticut (HCC) medical staff. For referrals to HCC physicians, please contact our free Need-A-Physician referral service by phone at 1-800-321-6244 or online.