Eye Diseases and Disorders
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
What is Age-related Macular Degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a condition that affects the center of the retina, called the macula. The macula is the part of the eye responsible for our most acute vision, which we use when reading, driving, and performing other activities that require fine, sharp, or straight-ahead vision.
There are two different types of AMD:
- Dry macular degeneration – Small yellow deposits, known as drusen, accumulate under the macula. Eventually, these deposits are disruptive to vision cells, causing them to slowly break down. With less of the macula working, this causes a gradual loss of central vision as time goes on. This is the most common form of AMD, affecting approximately 90% of people who have the disease.
- Wet macular degeneration – New blood vessels start to grow in areas of the macula where they shouldn’t be. This causes rapid damage to the macula that can lead to the loss of central vision in a short period of time. Although this type of AMD affects only about 10% of people with the disease, it is responsible for 90% of severe vision loss associated with AMD.
While the causes of AMD may be unknown; things like age, smoking, diet, obesity, exposure to sunlight, high blood pressure and family history of AMD appear to play a role.
Symptoms of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
In the early stages, AMD goes largely unnoticed, and can only be detected through a dilated eye exam, which may reveal drusen accumulation. However, as AMD progresses, drusen impair the transportation of vital nutrients to the macula and damages the light-sensitive cells of the retina causing noticeable symptoms, including:
- Blurred vision
- A dark or empty area in the central area of vision
- Distortion of straight line
Treatments for AMD
Since peripheral vision is not affected, many people with dry AMD continue in their normal lifestyles with the aid of low-vision optical devices, such as magnifiers.
Wet AMD is treated with injected medications and/or laser surgery by sealing off the leaking blood vessels. These are usually brief and painless outpatient procedures that slow and sometimes even reverse the progression of the degeneration. A small, permanently dark spot is left where the laser makes contact, however.
There’s some evidence a diet high in vitamins A (beta-carotene), C and E – as well as substances called lutein and zeaxanthin – may slow the progression of dry AMD, and possibly even reduce your risk of getting wet AMD. Talk to an ophthalmologist about whether these could help you.
These symptoms can also be a sign of other eye conditions. If you have any of the symptoms, please check with your eye care practitioner.