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Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD, is one of the leading causes of blindness. It is a common eye disease associated with aging that gradually and painlessly destroys sharp, central vision.

Who is Most Likely to Get AMD?

People over the age of 65 are more likely to be diagnosed with AMD than the younger population. Older people more vulnerable are:

  • Women
  • Caucasians
  • Those with a family member who has AMD
  • Smokers
  • Those with high blood pressure
  • Farsightedness people
  • Obese people

What is the Macula?

The macula is the light-sensitive part of the retina responsible for sharp, direct vision – the kind needed to read, drive, recognize faces, and use a computer. It is a small round area near where the optic nerve exits the eye and runs to the brain’s visual center.

When the macular cells deteriorate, there is a loss of central vision, but peripheral vision remains intact. People with AMD say, “It is like having a hole in your vision. You can't see very well straight on, but around the edges you can see quite clearly.” More about how the eye works

Two Forms of AMD

1. Dry AMD
The most common diagnosis is “Dry” AMD -- about ninety percent of cases. This occurs when small deposits called drusen start to accumulate beneath the macula. They gradually break down the light-sensing cells, usually distorting vision in one eye first and eventually in the other. It is important to monitor Dry AMD closely, as it can progress to the more severe wet form.
2. Wet AMD
Although “Wet” AMD is only diagnosed in 10% of all AMD cases, it is the more severe form. Tiny abnormal blood vessels begin to grow behind the retina which tend to leak blood and fluid. This damages the macula, causing rapid and severe vision loss. Wet AMD almost always occurs in people who already have Dry AMD, and usually results in legal blindness.

Symptoms of AMD

The first indicator may be declining vision noticed by the patient or by an eye care professional during a routine eye exam. If you experience any of the following symptoms, consult an eye care professional immediately:

  • Straight lines appearing distorted
  • The center of vision appearing more distorted than the rest of the scene
  • A dark, blurry area or “white-out” in the center of vision
  • Diminishing color perception

Is there a Cure for AMD?

While there is no cure for AMD presently, promising research is being done in a wide variety of areas, including radiation, nutrition, drugs, and surgeries.

Treatment Options

Currently, no treatment exists for Dry AMD. If you are at risk for AMD, be sure and eat a nutritious diet with plenty of green leafy vegetables, exercise regularly, and stop smoking. Wet AMD can sometimes be treated with laser surgery. Laser light is very precise and an eye surgery laser can be directed to the abnormal blood vessels that are causing damage by leaking. This will vaporize them painlessly and quickly.

What can I do to Prevent AMD?

  • Have annual routine eye exams
  • See your eye care professional without delay if you notice any decline in your vision

More on signs of age-related vision loss


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