Macular Degeneration

What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?

Age-related Macular Degeneration is a common eye condition among people age 50 and older. It is a leading cause of vision loss in older adults. It gradually destroys the macula, the part of the eye that provides the sharp, central vision needed for seeing objects.

In some people, AMD advances so slowly that vision loss does not occur for a long time. In others, the disorder progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in one or both eyes. The vision loss makes it difficult to recognize faces, drive a car, read, print, or do close work, such as sewing or fixing things around the house.

Despite the limited vision, AMD does not cause complete blindness. You will be able to see using your side (peripheral) vision.

Who is at Risk?

AMD usually occurs in people who are age 50 and older. As people get older, the risk increases. Other risk factors include the following:

  • Smoking: Research shows that smoking increases the risk of AMD two-fold.
  • Race: Caucasians are much more likely to get AMD than people of African descent.
  • Family history: People with a family history of AMD are at higher risk.

What forms of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Can Cause Vision Loss?

There are two forms of AMD: dry and wet. Either form can advance and cause severe vision loss.

All people who have wet form had the dry form first.

What is dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

Dry AMD is the most common form of AMD in its early or intermediate stages. It occurs in about 90 percent of the people with the condition.

Dry AMD happens when the macula’s light-sensitive cells slowly break down, gradually blurring central vision in the affected eye. As dry AMD progresses, you may see a blurred spot in the center of your vision. Your eye care professional may call this “geographic atrophy.”

Over time, the affected eye’s central vision can be slowly lost as less of the macula works.

What are the Symptoms of Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

Dry AMD has few symptoms in the early stages. It is important to have your eyes examined regularly before the disease progresses. 

In the later stages, blurred vision is the most common symptom of dry AMD. Objects also may not appear to be as bright as they used to be.

As a result, you may have trouble recognizing faces. You may need more light for reading and doing other tasks. Both eyes can have dry AMD, or one eye can be affected first.

What are the Symptoms of Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

Straight lines may appear wavy during the early stages of wet AMD. People with wet AMD also may develop a blind spot, which results in the loss of central vision. If you notice these or other changes to your vision, contact your eye care professional at once. Again, eye care professionals may be able to treat the condition before severe vision loss occurs.

Does Lifestyle Make a Difference?

Some lifestyle choices, like smoking, are linked to AMD, although it remains unknown if altering any of these would change the impact of AMD on an individual. Nevertheless, the following choices may have an impact on AMD and positively promote healthy living, including the following:

  • Avoiding smoking
  • Exercising
  • Maintaining normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Eating a healthy diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish

Some vitamins have been shown to be beneficial in patients who already have AMD (AREDS2 formulation) but have not been definitively shown to help people at risk for AMD.

AMD Treatment

Other than vitamins (as mentioned above), your doctor may recommend further evaluation and treatment with a retinal specialist. There are various options from laser to medical therapy that can halt or partially reverse the disease.