Macular degeneration (also called AMD, ARMD, or age-related macular degeneration) is an age-related condition.
Macular Degeneration is the condition in which the most sensitive part of the retina, called the macula, starts to break down and lose its ability to create clear visual images. The macula is responsible for central vision – the part of our sight we use to read, drive and recognize faces. So although a person’s peripheral vision is left unaffected by AMD, the most important aspect of vision is lost.
Macular degeneration can be classified as either dry (non-neovascular) or wet (neovascular). Neovascular refers to growth of new blood vessels in an area, such as the macula, where they are not supposed to be.
The dry form of AMD is more common – about 85% to 90% of all cases of macular degeneration are the dry variety.
Macular Degeneration Signs and Symptoms
Macular degeneration usually produces a slow, painless loss of vision. Early signs of vision loss associated with macular degeneration can include seeing shadowy areas in your central vision or experiencing unusually fuzzy or distorted vision. In rare cases, it may cause a sudden loss of central vision.
Besides affecting older individuals, macular degeneration appears to occur in whites and females in particular. The disease also can result as a side effect of some drugs, and it appears to run in families.
New evidence strongly suggests that smoking is high on the list of risk factors for macular degeneration. Other risk factors for macular degeneration include having a family member with it, high blood pressure, lighter eye color and obesity. Some researchers believe that over-exposure to sunlight also may be a contributing factor in development of macular degeneration, and a high-fat diet also may be a risk factor.
Treatment of Macular Degeneration
There are no FDA-approved treatments for dry macular degeneration, although nutritional intervention may be valuable in preventing its progression to the more advanced, wet form.
For wet macular degeneration, there are several FDA-approved drugs aimed at stopping abnormal blood vessel growth and vision loss from the disease. In some cases, laser treatment of the retina may be recommended. Ask your eye doctor for details about the latest treatment options for wet macular degeneration.
If you have already suffered vision loss from macular degeneration, low vision devices including high magnification reading glasses and hand-held telescopes may help you achieve better vision than regular prescription eyewear.