Macular degeneration (also known as age-related macular degeneration, or AMD) is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over 65. This condition occurs when the macula—the very central part of the retina that is responsible for sharp, central vision—begins to deteriorate. Advanced AMD associated with vision loss affects about 1.75 million U.S. residents. Although macular degeneration does not result in total blindness, it can cause profound visual disability.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
Symptoms of macular degeneration may include:
- Dark, blurry areas in the center of vision
- Diminished or changed color perception
- Straight lines appear wavy
There are two main types of age-related macular degeneration:
- Dry macular degeneration. The "dry" form of macular degeneration is more common, and accounts for about 85 to 90 percent of AMD cases. It is characterized by the presence of yellow deposits, called drusen, in the macula, which are thought to be deposits or debris from deteriorating tissue. Dry macular degeneration may also be the result of a thinning of the light-sensitive layer of cells in the macula leading to atrophy, or tissue death, which may cause blind spots in the central vision.
- Wet macular degeneration. The "wet" form of macular degeneration is less common than the dry form, but usually leads go more serious vision loss. It is characterized by the growth of abnormal blood vessels underneath the macula. These blood vessels leak blood and fluid into the retina, causing distortion of vision. The abnormal blood vessels will eventually scar, leading to permanent loss of central vision.
Risk Factors for Macular Degeneration
In some cases, macular degeneration can be hereditary. If someone in your family has or had the condition you may be at higher risk for developing macular degeneration. Talk to your eye doctor about your individual risk. Other risk factors include: smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and being Caucasian.
Treatment for Macular Degeneration
There is no cure for age-related macular degeneration, but there are treatments that may delay its progression, or improve vision. Treatments for the condition depend on the stage and form of macular degeneration. Nutritional intervention may help prevent progression from dry macular degeneration to wet macular degeneration.
There are some prescription drugs that may help stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels in wet macular degeneration.
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