Vision Loss: Age-Related Macular Degeneration

The macula is the most sensitive part of the retina, located at the back of the eye, and is made up of millions of light-sensing cells. When the macula is damaged, the center of your central vision may become blurry, distorted or dark.

Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a process of degradation and damage that occurs to the macula. It’s linked with age, environmental and genetic factors, and is one of the most common causes of vision loss in people over the age of 60.

Types of AMD

Dry

Caused by aging and thinning of the tissues of the macula, vision loss is usually gradual – worsening of vision is generally slower and milder. The dry type accounts for 90% of all AMD.

 

Geographic Atrophy: A sub-type of dry AMD, GA may result in gradual but severe loss of central vision. GA affects about 10% of individuals with dry AMD.

Wet

Accounting for about 10% of all AMD, wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels begin to grow underneath the retina. These new blood vessels may leak fluid or blood (giving this type it’s “wet” moniker), more severely blurring or distorting central vision, and vision loss may be faster and more noticeable.

 

Can you have more than one type of AMD?

Yes, wet AMD generally begins as dry AMD and becomes wet. If you have dry AMD in both eyes the chances of you developing wet AMD in one eye is about 10% over your lifetime.

What are symptoms of wet AMD?

If you experience new distortion or waviness of straight lines on an Amsler grid or elsewhere, have increasingly blurry vision, missing spots in vision or a decline in vision you should call your eye doctor.

What causes AMD?

Other than aging, heredity is a risk factor. If you have one or more close blood relatives with AMD you are more likely to develop macular degeneration. Smoking, high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol are contributive causes, and race contributes a risk factor, too, as AMD is more common in Caucasians than African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos.

How is AMD treated?

There is no cure for macular degeneration at this time, but treatments and lifestyle changes may prevent severe vision loss or slow down the progression of the disease.

  • If you smoke, you should quit
  • Control your blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Have your retina examined regularly with a dilated eye exam
  • Vitamins C, E, beta-carotene, zinc and copper may decrease the risk of vision loss in patients with dry AMD
  • Anti-VEGF medications are available to help stabilize vision (for wet AMD)
  • Take AREDS or AREDS 2 supplements daily (for dry AMD)
  • Laser therapy can sometimes be used to treat abnormal blood vessels.

AMD is detected through an eye exam. If you’re due for an exam, be sure to schedule your appointment.

Read Other Blog Posts