Age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD, is a deterioration of the macula, a small area comprising the central part of the retina. The macula is responsible for providing clear central vision and allows us to read, see fine detail, and see people’s faces. AMD is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 50. In the early stages, AMD often has no symptoms but can be detected with regular eye exams.
There are two main types of macular degeneration:
Dry AMD is the most common—90% of people who have macular degeneration have this type. A sign of dry AMD is the formation of small yellow deposits in the macula called drusen which can vary in size and appearance. Visual loss may occur but is usually gradual and not as severe as wet AMD.
Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow beneath the retina. These fragile vessels can leak fluid or blood, damaging the macula. While only 10% of those with AMD have the wet type, vision loss can be quick and more severe.
Macular degeneration may not have symptoms at the beginning stages of the disease. As it progresses, certain symptoms may appear including:
- Distorted lines
- Blurriness in center of vision
- Faded colors
If you have any of these symptoms, it’s important to get a dilated comprehensive eye exam. Regular eye exams are needed to monitor any changes in vision.
There is currently no cure for either type of macular degeneration, though new treatment options continue to be researched. Currently, treatments for dry AMD are focused on delaying the progression of vision loss with over-the-counter vitamins based on the AREDS 2 study. It’s also important to make necessary lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, avoiding excessive sunlight, or modifying your diet.
Treatment options for wet AMD include:
- Intravitreal Injections
- Thermal Laser
- Photodynamic Therapy
While these treatments are not a cure, if started early it is possible to reverse any vision loss that has occurred with wet AMD and prevent any further vision loss from occurring with continued treatment.