Macular Degeneration Explained
What is Macular Degeneration?
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a disease where the center of the retina deteriorates and causes loss of vision. Both types cause devastating visual loss by creating a scar in the central retina (the macula) and blurry vision is a main symptom of AMD.
Two Forms of Macular Degeneration
- Wet AMD provokes the majority of the severe cases. This form of the disease produces abnormal, leaking blood vessels.
- Dry AMD is more common, less severe, and usually causes a gradual loss of vision. Dry AMD may be caused by white/yellow fatty deposits accumulating under retinal tissue.
As we age, our vision lessens. The retina is the “film” of the eye which captures the images we see, before sending them to the brain. The retina covers the entire back surface of the eye. Macular degeneration typically affects only the central part of the retina, called the “macula” which is your “straight-ahead” vision. This region operates our sharpest central vision and color vision. The majority of AMD cases are dry, and the rest are wet, which is a much more damaging and causes more serious vision loss.
AMD is most common in people:
- Over 60 years old
- Who have high blood pressure
- Have a family history of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
- Who smoke
- Who are overweight
Exciting New Therapies for Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of legal blindness in the US, in patients over 60.
Many people with macular degeneration maintain good vision. But this common disease can make it difficult for patients to perform routine activities such as reading and driving.
Currently only a small percentage of patients at specific stages can be treated for AMD. A new therapy called anti-VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor) not only stabilizes macular degeneration, but also may improve a patient’s vision. Also, antioxidant vitamins and zinc might reduce the effect of AMD in some people. Early diagnosis is critical to reduce the risk of permanent vision loss from AMD.
Macular degeneration and other age-related diseases create a high risk for vision loss.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends a dilated eye exam every two years for patients over age 40 and annually for patients over age 60.
If you haven’t had an eye exam to determine whether or not you have macular degeneration, contact the eye care specialists at Summit Eye Center and we’ll get you the answers you need.
Content reviewed by Kevin R. Skelsey, M.D., F.A.C.S.