If you've been diagnosed with the eye condition age-related macular degeneration (AMD) you're probably worried about the possible impact on your eyesight. The condition can lead to gradual loss of central vision, this is the ability to see what is literally straight in front of you. Some people lose central vision at a faster rate.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common condition affecting older people. About one in 100 people aged 65-75, and about one in eight people aged over 85 have AMD that is severe enough to cause serious visual loss.
Although we accept that our vision deteriorates as we grow older, a diagnosis of AMD might leave you feeling anxious about your future sight.
AMD affects the macula, a small area at the centre of the retina which allows you to see what is straight in front of you. If you have AMD, you might be experiencing:
Having AMD might have a severe impact on your daily life. You might not feel comfortable or safe driving anymore, potentially making you more dependent on others and limiting your independence. You probably also have trouble reading and watching TV and you might not be able to enjoy time together with your family.
Specialists always recommend treatment for AMD where it is available as the alternative is inevitable loss of central vision.
'Wet' macular degeneration is caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels within the retina, leading to a build-up of fluid, bleeding and scarring. Wet AMD can cause serious visual loss, sometimes within a few months. It's the less common of the two types of AMD - with only 10% of people being affected by it.
To treat wet AMD, our consultants offer anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor). It is not a cure but it can prevent further AMD-related vision loss. Some people who started treatment early regain some lost central vision. As it is carried out under a local anaesthetic and only takes a few minutes, you can go home the same day.
We pride ourselves on our clinical excellence, you'll be looked after by an experienced multi-disciplinary care team.
Our patients are at the heart of what we do and we want you to be in control of your care. To us, that means you can choose the consultant you want to see, and when you want. They'll be with you every step of the way.
All of our consultants are of the highest calibre and benefit from working in our modern, well-equipped hospitals.
Our consultants have high standards to meet, often holding specialist NHS posts and delivering expertise in complex sub-specialty surgeries. Many of our consultants have international reputations for their research in their specialised field.
You will have a formal consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.
We will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests, such as scans or blood tests, are needed. Any additional costs will be discussed before further tests are carried out.
We've tried to make your experience with us as easy and relaxed as possible.
For more information on visiting hours, our food, what to pack if you're staying with us, parking and all those other important practicalities, please visit our patient information pages.
Our dedicated team will also give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your visit.
We understand that having medical treatment to an eye when your vision is under threat can be a time of anxiety and worry. Our experienced and caring medical staff will be there for you every step of the way.
Your consultant will give you every opportunity to ask for more information or to discuss anything you're worried about at your initial consultation.
The following treatments may vary by hospital location.
One possible treatment for wet AMD is the injection of a drug that controls the build-up of fluid under the retina. The drugs are known as VEGF inhibitors. Your consultant will administer anaesthetic eyes drops before injecting anti-VEGF medication. Therefore you should not feel any pain and most people cope well. They'll also administer eye drops to dilate the eye as this makes their work easier.
Your consultant will inject the anti-VEGF medication into your eye using a fine needle. It's likely you'll require more than one injection before your vision loss stabilises. Your consultant will talk to you about this.
The whole process only takes a few minutes and you'll be able to leave after an hour or so.
Your consultant will inject a light sensitive medicine called verteporfin into your arm. The medicine will attach itself to the abnormal blood vessels in your macula.
The consultant will then shine a low powered laser into your eye for around one minute which the verteporfin will absorb, helping the laser to destroy abnormal blood vessels.
You may need this treatment every few months to make sure new abnormal blood vessels are kept under control.
This treatment is carried out under local anaesthetic.
Your highly trained specialist will use a laser to burn sections of the retina. When these areas harden they will prevent abnormal blood vessels from moving towards the macula.
You'll be discharged around an hour after your procedure. You'll need a friend or relative to take you home because your vision will be affected. We'll provide you with pain relief and eye drops to take home where appropriate and will give you advice on your recovery. The eye drops your consultant used to dilate the pupils may make your eyes blurry for a few hours. It's likely the white of your eye will be red for a few days.
You may notice black swirls in your vision for a few weeks. Within 24 hours your eye will feel normal but take the eye drops we'll give you for a few days to prevent infection. Generally your recovery should be quick and uneventful but don't drive for 24 hours.
Anti-VEGF treatment is carried out monthly. After you've had three injections over three months we will monitor you and discuss whether the treatment should continue.
Surgery (Photodynamic therapy)
Most people don't experience much pain and are able to resume normal indoor activities on the first day.
But try to avoid any direct sunlight for the first two days. This might mean asking a friend or relative to do a bit of shopping for you. It's typically fine to resume normal activities after a day or two.
You might experience blurred vision for up to 24 hours and it can take two weeks to recover fully. You could ask a friend or relative to help out with shopping and household chores while you're recovering.
Depending on the sight in your other eye you might need some help for a few days with routine tasks such as shopping and driving.
Even after you've left hospital, we're still looking after you every step of the way.
Depending on the procedure you've had for AMD, we may want to see you again about afterwards to see how you are doing.
On rare occasions, there can be complications following AMD treatment. We will talk to you about the possible risks and complications of having this procedure and how they apply to you.
If you have questions or concerns about your recovery, we're here to help.
We are committed to delivering excellent individual care and customer service across our network of hospitals, clinics and specialist care centres around the UK. Our dedicated and highly trained team aim to achieve consistently excellent results. For us it's more than just treating patients, it's about looking after people.
The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.
We have excellent road links to the M1 and A1(M), and are five minutes from Harpenden train station.
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