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In this MD Newsline exclusive interview with vitreoretinal specialist Dr. Alan Franklin, we discuss what wet age-related macular degeneration is and why it matters.

MD Newsline:

Can you explain why age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in general, and wet AMD in particular, are such important health issues?

Dr. Alan Franklin:

“Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in adults over the age of 65 in non-third-world countries. There are about 11 million people with AMD in the U.S. Wet AMD comprises about 10 to 15% of AMD cases, so about 1.6 million people have wet AMD in the U.S.”

 

MD Newsline:

Is AMD commonly misdiagnosed? What is it mistaken for?

Dr. Alan Franklin:

“Most people with AMD who see a retina specialist are correctly diagnosed. Other things that can look like AMD are inflammatory conditions in the macula, the center of the retina. Drug toxicity can also mimic AMD, as can old injuries.

The other thing we see is people who are really nearsighted can have degeneration in the back of the eye that looks like AMD. So degeneration secondary to being nearsighted, myopic degeneration, is also similar to AMD.”

 

MD Newsline:

How does central vision loss manifest in wet AMD? What factors impact how rapidly patients experience vision loss?

Dr. Alan Franklin:

“The vision loss with AMD is central vision loss. Usually, peripheral vision remains intact. Some patients say they can’t read as well or see as well. Other patients will complain that if they look at somebody’s face, they can’t see the person’s face, but they can see around it. That’s a pretty classic symptom for advanced AMD, whether it’s advanced dry degeneration or atrophic AMD, or whether it’s wet AMD.

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Patients with advanced AMD also notice spots missing in their vision. For example, they’ll try to read, and they can’t see the whole word. They only see some of the letters. And then, since fluid under the retina distorts the retina, wet AMD will distort the vision. So, if somebody comes in with spots in their vision, it could just be AMD. But if they say they have distortion in their vision, that’s more of a smoking gun for wet AMD.”

 

Responses have been condensed and lightly edited.

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