Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) generally occurs slowly over time and often only affects one eye initially so that the other healthy eye is able to compensate, disguising any symptoms until the deterioration in vision becomes far worse.
Also many people suffering from AMD simply put their symptoms down to the ageing process and as such simply accept their impaired vision. This makes it even more important to go for regular eye checks as an optician will be able to spot the early signs of AMD and the earlier it is detected, the greater the chances of slowing its progress and, in some cases, partially preserving it.
How to spot the signs
The main symptom of macular degeneration is a blurring of the central vision - the part of your sight needed to focus.
However your peripheral vision – the part of your sight need to see around the sides, won’t be affected. Nor will glasses be able to help correct any blurring of central vision.
Symptoms of Dry AMD
Loss of visual acuity – your ability to see fine detail for example reading and driving become difficult even when wearing glasses, you may need a brighter light when reading, colours appear less vibrant.
Contrast sensitivity – People’s faces are difficult to distinguish and appear blurry your vision seems generally hazier or less well defined.
Everyone should have an eye test every two years at least. However if you experience any of the above symptoms you should book an appointment with your GP or optician.
Symptoms of Wet AMD
Wet AMD generally develops in people who are already suffering from dry AMD; therefore it is crucial for anyone with dry AMD, whose central vision suddenly worsens to seek immediate medical advice to prevent their vision becoming worse. Visual distortions - straight lines such as door frames may appear wavy or crooked Blind spots - these tend to appear right in the middle of your field of vision and will become larger if left untreated Hallucinations - seeing shapes, people or things that aren't there.
If you experience any sudden changes in your vision, such as the symptoms described above you should book an emergency appointment with an optometrist.
Although no self-test can be a replacement for an examination by an eye care health professional, an early test for AMD involves asking the patient to look at an Amsler grid. This special grid is made up of vertical and horizontal lines, with a dot in the middle.
People suffering from macular degeneration, are likely to see faded, broken or distorted lines. Depending on which lines are broken or distorted will give the ophthalmologist a better idea of the extent of the macula damage.