Macular Degeneration

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular generation, the leading cause of blindness, affects an estimated 13 million Americans. This eye condition is caused by the deterioration of the macula. When it deteriorates, the images are not correctly received by the macula. Macular generation is not highly affected during early stages of the condition. As the disease progress, symptoms include blurred vision and can even lead to blindness.

What are the types of Macular Degeneration?

There are two types of macular degeneration— “dry” and “wet”.

How does AMD damage vision?

The retina is a paper-thin tissue that lines the back of the eye and sends visual signals to the brain. In the middle of the retina is a tiny area called the macula. The macula is made up of millions of light-sensing cells that help to produce central vision.
AMD occurs in two forms:
  • Dry AMD: Everybody with AMD has this type at onset. Scientists think that AMD is caused by many factors and that family history, smoking, uncontrolled blood pressure play a role. However, we still have a lot to learn. Nine out of 10 people have “dry” AMD which leads to the slow breakdown or thinning of the light-sensing cells in the macula and a gradual loss of central vision.
  • Wet AMD: Sometime after the onset of dry AMD, patients can develop a more serious form of the disease known as “wet” AMD in which serious and rapid damage to the macula can typically lead to a more dramatic decrease in vision. This affects about 1 out of 10 all people with AMD. In wet AMD, new fragile blood vessels may begin to grow and can cause bleeding and fluid under the macula. In the last several years, there have been promising treatments for this type of AMD which include off-label Avastin, Lucentis, and Eylea.

Who is most likely to get AMD?

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. For instance, a large study found that people in middle-age have about a two percent risk of getting AMD, but this risk increased to nearly 30 percent in those over age 75. A recent study of 150 people age 100 found them all to have some form of AMD. If we live long enough, we all stand to develop some form of the disease. Other Age-related Macular Degeneration risk factors include:
  • Gender: Women tend to be at greater risk for AMD than men.
  • Race / Blue Eyes: Whites are much more likely to lose vision from AMD than Latinos and Asians, and those of African descent rarely develop AMD.
  • Family History: Those with immediate family members who have AMD are at a higher risk of developing the disease.
  • Smoking: Smoking may increase the risk of AMD.

Other Age-related Macular Degeneration risk factors include:

  • Gender: Women tend to be at greater risk for AMD than men.
  • Race / Blue Eyes: Whites are much more likely to lose vision from AMD than Latinos and Asians, and those of African descent rarely develop AMD.
  • Family History: Those with immediate family members who have AMD are at a higher risk of developing the disease.
  • Smoking: Smoking may increase the risk of AMD.

What are the symptoms?

Neither dry nor wet AMD causes any pain. The most common early sign of dry AMD is blurred vision. As the loss of nerve cells progresses, people experience a gradual loss of central vision. Often this blurred vision will go away in brighter light. Eventually, there will be small, but growing blind spot in the middle of the field of vision. The classic early symptom of wet AMD is that straight lines appear crooked. This is similar to the effect of looking through a fun-house mirror. This is caused by leaking blood from the damaged vessels lifting the macula. There may also be a small blind spot in wet AMD cases, causing central vision loss. If you believe you have symptoms of age-related macular degeneration, contact us for an evaluation. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial in preserving vision.

How is it detected?

You are at risk to develop AMD if you are over age 60 and have had recent changes in your central vision. To look for signs of the disease, eye drops are used to dilate or enlarge, your pupils. Dilating the pupils allows us a better view of the back of the eye. You may also be asked to view an Amsler grid, a pattern that looks like a chess board. Early changes in your central vision will cause the grid to appear distorted, a sign of AMD.

Visit our Treatment for Age-Related Macular Degeneration page for more information on treatment options.


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