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Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that can blur the sharp, central vision you need for activities like reading and driving. “Age-related” means that it often happens in older people. “Macular” means it affects a part of your eye called the macula. The macula is central part of the retina and supplies your sharpest vision.
AMD is a common condition — it’s a leading cause of vision loss for people age 50 and older. AMD doesn’t cause complete blindness, but losing your central vision can make it harder to see faces, drive, or do close-up work like reading, cooking or fixing things around the house.
AMD happens very slowly in some people. Even if you have early AMD, you may not experience vision loss for a long time. For other people, AMD progresses faster and can lead to central vision loss in one eye or both eyes.

Types of AMD

Dry AMD
Most people who have AMD, about 80%, have the dry form. Dry AMD causes slow loss of central vision as the macula get thinner with age and tiny clumps of protein called drusen grow.

Wet AMD
This form is less common, but much more serious. Wet AMD is when new, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina. These vessels may leak blood or other fluids, causing rapid loss of vision.

Symptoms of AMD

  • Blurry areas near the center of the vision
  • Blank spot near the center of the vision
  • Straight lines may look wavy – This can be a warning sign of Wet AMD.
  • If you notice any of these symptoms, see your Eye Doctor right away.

Risk Factors for AMD

  • Age – Risk of AMD increases with age. The risk for people over 75 years of age is 3 times the risk for people age 65-75 years of age.
  • Family History – People with a direct family member with AMD have a 50% chance of developing it.
  • Genetics – Complement Factor H is an important gene in the development of AMD. The role of other genes, such as ARMS2/HTRA, are less certain. Genetics may also play a part in response to treatment.
  • Race – Lighter-skinned people are more likely to get AMD than darker-skinned people. Caucasians are 2.5 times more likely to have AMD than African-Americans or Hispanics.
  • Smoking – Smokers are three to four times more likely to develop AMD. Current smokers are twice as likely to have vision loss compared to non-smokers.
  • Obesity, High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol – These may increase the risk of AMD
  • UV Exposure – Exposure to ultraviolet light (present in sunlight) may increase risk of AMD.
  • Diet – Diets high in saturated fat can increase the risk of AMD. Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin C, Vitamin e, and may reduce risk.

If you are at risk for AMD because of your age, family history, race or genetics, it is very important to get regular eye exams and take steps to reduce your risk from modifiable risk factors.

  • Quit smoking — or don’t start
  • Wear UV-blocking glasses and sunglasses
  • Get regular physical activity
  • Maintain a healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Eat healthy foods, including leafy green vegetables and fish
  • Get regular Eye Examinations

Diagnosing AMD

Our Eye Doctors can check for AMD as part of a comprehensive dilated eye exam. The exam is simple and painless — your doctor will give you some eye drops to dilate (widen) your pupil and then check your eyes for AMD and other eye problems.
Your doctor may also recommend doing a test called an optical coherence tomogram (OCT). This test lets the doctor see the microscopic detail of your macula.
If you get an OCT test, your eye doctor will take pictures of the inside of your eye with a special machine. The machine won’t touch your eye. Your doctor may also dilate your pupils as part of an OCT test.

Treating AMD

Dry AMD
There’s currently no treatment for early dry AMD, so your eye doctor will probably just keep track of how your eyes are doing with regular eye exams. Eating healthy, getting regular exercise, and quitting smoking can also help.
If you are diagnosed with intermediate or late dry AMD, special dietary supplements (vitamins and minerals) may be able to stop it from getting worse. The AREDS 2 Formula is a combination of vitamins and supplements that has been shown to be of benefit in the Age Related Eye Disease Studies funded by the National Eye Institute.
Additionally, your doctor will have you monitor your vision at home with an Amsler Grid to try to detect changes as early as possible. If you doctor feels you are at high risk for developing wet macular degeneration, he may suggest you use a home device to check your macula. The ForeseeHome device has been shown to detect changes in AMD earlier than with the Amsler Grid.
Learn more about supplements for AMD

Wet AMD
For people with wet AMD, there are other treatments that may be able to stop further vision loss. Injections of Anti-VEGF medications (Avastin, Lucentis, Eylea, and Beovu can cause regression of abnormal blood vessels, reduce leakage of fluid and slow vision loss.

Coping with Vision Loss

Not everyone with AMD develops late AMD or gets it in both eyes. But if you do, living with vision loss from AMD can be challenging. Having low vision means that even with glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery, your vision loss makes it hard to do everyday tasks.
The good news is, there are things that can help — like low vision devices and rehabilitation (training) programs.

Get the latest news on NEI-supported AMD research

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AREDS2 Formula for AMD
Available without prescription

ForeSeeHome device
for home monitoring of AMD