You can ward off plenty of health conditions by looking out for early warning signs. But that’s not possible with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of vision loss in people over 50. That’s because there are no warning signs in the early stages.
“Age-related macular degeneration is a disease that can be insidious, often with symptoms coming on slowly over years,” says Michelle Andreoli, M.D., an ophthalmologist at Northwestern Medicine and spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “The slow onset of symptoms can lead to advanced disease before patients are aware of the change.”
AMD, which afflicts nearly 20 million people in the United States, is a progressive eye disease that affects the central vision and, as a result, the ability to see fine details. If you have advanced AMD, it’s all but impossible to drive, read, watch TV or recognize faces.
There are two types of AMD: dry and wet. The overwhelming majority of people with the disease have dry AMD. With the dry form, parts of the macula — located at the center of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of your eyes — become thin over time and tiny clumps of protein called drusen grow, gradually blurring your central vision. Any stage of dry AMD can turn into the wet form, but the reverse isn’t true; wet AMD is always late stage.
With wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula, ultimately leading to fluid and blood leakage, causing scarring of the macula.
“Symptoms like the ones described below should prompt patients to see their eye care specialists for an eye exam,” says Akrit Sodhi, M.D., professor of ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “They could be due to development of advanced AMD, dry or wet.”
Here are three warning signs of AMD.
The haziness comes on so gradually you may think the solution to the fuzzy print on the page or your computer screen is a new eyeglasses prescription, if not a brighter bulb in the overhead lighting. And it may be. But blurriness is also a hallmark symptom of AMD.