Expert

Symptoms of Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Scheie Eye Institute, University of Pennsylvania
A photo of a lake and canoes with the central portion of the image darkened and distorted due to wet macular degeneration

Learn about the symptoms of wet AMD, an eye disorder that can cause rapid vision loss.

Wet AMD is caused by new blood vessels leaking fluid into the retina. This causes the retina to become “wet.” Initially, the fluid causes reversible vision loss, but the vision loss can become permanent within weeks to months, if untreated. Thus, it’s very important to detect wet AMD.

Patients with wet AMD may be diagnosed with early-stage dry AMD years before the wet AMD occurs.

Early AMD has only subtle symptoms (see the article on “Symptoms of Dry AMD”), and is best diagnosed with a dilated eye exam. It usually occurs at age 55 or older, which is one reason why people in this age group should have a dilated eye exam every year or two.

The symptoms of the vision loss from wet AMD can come on suddenly, even within one day, when blood vessels suddenly leak into the retina. The process is painless. The symptoms are distortion or a blind spot in the central vision. The blind spot can appear gray, red, or black.

One way to detect distortion or a blind spot in the central vision is with an Amsler grid. The grid should be viewed with reading glasses on, held at a comfortable reading distance, and one eye should be tested at a time while the other eye is closed or covered. If the lines in the grid appear wavy or an area of lines is missing, call an ophthalmologist promptly.

Also, the ForeseeHome Monitor® from Notal Vision® is the first FDA-cleared device for patients with dry AMD to monitor the disease at home. It is now a Medicare-covered service for patients enrolled in Medicare across the U.S., and who meet the eligibility criteria for dry AMD at high risk for converting to wet AMD.

It sometimes can be difficult to distinguish a central blind spot from “floaters.” Floaters are opaque specks that float about in the vitreous region (the clear jelly-like substance that fills the eye from the lens to the back of the eye) and cast a shadow on the retina. They are very common. Floaters will continue to move slightly later than the movement of the eye, so if the eye is moved quickly, the floater, and dark spot or “blob” that it causes in your vision will continue to move for about a second after the eye is still. Usually, floaters are not a problem, but new floaters, especially if accompanied by flashing lights in the peripheral (side) vision or a “curtain” blocking the peripheral vision can be caused by a retinal detachment and should lead to an immediate call to an ophthalmologist.

Fortunately, wet AMD can now be treated with medicines injected into the eye which stop the abnormal blood vessels from leaking. These medications work best if the wet AMD is detected promptly!

Resources:

This content was first posted on: October 29, 2018

The information provided here is a public service of the BrightFocus Foundation and should not in any way substitute for personalized advice of a qualified healthcare professional; it is not intended to constitute medical advice. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice. BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product, therapy, or resources mentioned or listed in this article. All medications and supplements should only be taken under medical supervision. Also, although we make every effort to keep the medical information on our website updated, we cannot guarantee that the posted information reflects the most up-to-date research.

These articles do not imply an endorsement of BrightFocus by the author or their institution, nor do they imply an endorsement of the institution or author by BrightFocus.

Some of the content may be adapted from other sources, which will be clearly identified within the article.

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