The term “macular degeneration” includes many different eye diseases, all of which affect central, or detail vision. Age-related macular degeneration is the most common of these disorders, mainly affecting people over the age of 60. Although there are many types of macular degeneration, age-related macular degeneration (AMD or ARMD) is the most common type. Age-related macular degeneration occurs in two forms: “wet” age-related macular degeneration and “dry” age-related macular degeneration. “Wet” age-related macular degeneration is less common but more aggressive in its development to severe central vision loss. “Dry” age-related macular degeneration is the more common type and is more slowly progressive in causing loss of vision.
Wet age-related macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels begin to grow underneath the retina. These new blood vessels (known as choroidal neovascularization or CNV) tend to be very fragile and often leak blood and fluid. The blood and fluid raise the macula from its normal place at the back of the eye and interfere with the retina’s function and causes the central vision to blur. Under these circumstances, vision loss may be rapid and severe. Some patients, however, do not notice visual changes despite the onset of CNV. Therefore, periodic eye examinations are very important for patients at risk for CNV. Once CNV has developed in one eye, whether there is a visual loss or not, the other eye is at relatively high risk for the same change.
In dry AMD, the light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down. With less of the macula functioning, central vision diminishes. Dry AMD often occurs in just one eye at first. Later, the other eye can be affected. The cause of dry AMD is unknown. The dry form is much more common than the wet form. Dry AMD can advance and cause vision loss without turning into wet AMD. Dry AMD can also rapidly transform into the wet form by the growth of new blood vessels.
Neither dry nor wet AMD cause any eye pain. The most common early symptom in dry AMD is blurred vision. Dry macular degeneration symptoms usually develop gradually and do not include total blindness. However, the symptoms may worsen the quality of life by making reading, driving, and facial recognition difficult. Other symptoms may include decreased night vision, a decrease in the intensity or brightness of colors, increase in the haziness of overall vision. All of the above symptoms may also be noticed in the wet form of AMD. In addition, the most common symptom in wet macular degeneration is straight lines appearing crooked or wavy.
There is no know case for macular degeneration but multiple risk factors have been identified. The greatest risk factor is age. Although AMD may occur during middle age, studies show that people over age 60 are clearly at greater risk than other age groups and should be monitored for early signs of AMD.
A thorough examination including dilation by an eye doctor is the best way to determine if you have macular degeneration or if you are at risk for developing the condition.
If needed, your care will be coordinated with a retina specialist. Wet AMD can be treated with laser surgery, photodynamic therapy, and injections into the eye. None of these treatments are a permanent cure for wet AMD. The disease and loss of vision may continue to grow despite treatment.
In addition to getting regular eye examinations your lifestyle can play a role in reducing your risk of developing AMD. This includes:
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