Macular Degeneration

Vision Loss Due to Age

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects about 1.75 million Americans, and another seven million are at risk of developing it. A disease that gradually destroys sharp, central vision, AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in adults over 60 years of age.

The macula, the central area of vision, is located in the center of the retina. It can experience two types of degeneration: wet or dry.

Wet AMD involves the growth of abnormal blood vessels behind the retina. These frail vessels often leak blood and fluid, which can both damage and shift the macula. An early symptom of wet AMD is that straight lines appear wavy.

Dry AMD, the more common form, occurs when the light-sensitive cells in the macula break down over time. This blurs central vision in the affected eye, and may appear as a blurred spot in the center of vision.

An early sign of dry AMD is drusen or yellow deposits under the retina. Increased size or numbers of drusen are associated with increased risk of developing both forms of AMD.

AMD can be detected or confirmed during a comprehensive eye exam that includes a visual acuity test, dilated eye exam and tonometry, measuring the pressure inside the eye.

There are a variety of treatments for wet AMD, although none of them can cure the condition. Laser surgery uses high-energy light to destroy the leaky blood vessels and prevent further loss of vision. Photodynamic therapy uses an injected drug that is activated by shining a light into the eye. The drug destroys the leaky blood vessels.

Currently the best treatment is anti vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) drugs. They require an injection into the eye monthly but can stabilize over 90% of patients.

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