Macular degeneration is the number one cause of vision loss among older adults in the United States. Often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), this common condition gradually causes your central vision to become blurry as the health of your eye’s macula continues to degrade. While AMD rarely causes complete blindness, it can make it difficult or impossible to read, drive, watch television, or perform other visual tasks. Here are several things you should know about this condition.
Two Types of Macular Degeneration
There are two types of age-related macular degeneration:
- Dry AMD, which is the most common type and affects more than 80% of AMD patients. As areas of the macula become thinner with age, tiny clumps of a protein called drusen grow. Patients will notice a gradual loss of central vision over time.
- Wet AMD, while less common, is more serious and can cause you to lose your vision quicker. With wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina. The macula can scar if blood or other fluids leak from the blood vessels.
Be Aware of AMD’s Causes and Risk Factors
While AMD is associated with aging, researchers believe that over-exposure to sunlight could contribute to its development. If you have a family member who had AMD, you could also be at a higher risk of developing it. Some of the most common risk factors for developing AMD include:
- Being a woman over the age of 50
- Having cardiovascular disease
- Being obese and inactive
- Having high cholesterol levels
- Being Caucasian
- Having high blood pressure
- Being a smoker
Treatments to Delay Progression of AMD
There is no cure for macular degeneration. As of yet, there is no treatment for dry AMD. However, your eye doctor may recommend nutritional supplements that contain antioxidant vitamins to slow its progression to wet AMD.
For wet AMD, treatment may consist of injections to shrink existing or stop abnormal blood vessel growth. Wet AMD may also be treated with laser procedures.