How common is AMD?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) mainly affects older people: about 4 per cent of those over 40 years old, 9 per cent of those over 50 years, 23 per cent of those over 65 years and 31 per cent of those aged 80 years or more. Men and women are equally affected. AMD accounts for up to 45 per cent of legal blindness and up to 70 per cent of seriously impaired vision in people over the age of 70 years.
How is AMD detected and diagnosed?
People with AMD may notice that their vision has deteriorated. Many patients do not realise that they have a problem until their vision becomes blurred. Optometrists perform a number of tests in an examination which enables them to detect the presence of AMD in the early stages.
The optometrist examines the macula carefully with an ophthalmoscope, which allows examination of the interior of the eye. Sometimes, the optometrist may place a drop in the eye to dilate the pupil to get a better view of the internal structures. The optometrist will look for changes in the macula such as the accumulations of waste material or new blood vessels.
Another test which may be used is a grid pattern known as the Amsler chart. This is a regular grid which looks like a piece of graph paper. Patients with AMD often report that sections of the grid appear to be distorted or missing.
Optometrists will usually refer patients whom they suspect have AMD to an ophthalmologist for confirmation of diagnosis.