Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

The retina is a thin layer of light-sensitive tissue on the rear surface of the inner eye. This tissue is made up of specialized cells that convert light into electrical impulses that transmit the images you see to the brain. Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a degenerative retinal disease which affects many adults in their early sixties. AMD development is a progressive and painless. It gradually destroys the vision needed to function daily while involved in task such as watching TV, reading, writing and driving. As AMD advances, it can be devastating to ones mobility and thus makes daily living very difficult often requiring special aid and special assistance.

AMD is the number one cause of irreversible vision loss among seniors in the United States. Nearly nine million Americans over the age of 55 have some form of AMD. Approximately 10% of these Americans have AMD, and 5% have lost the central vision in both eyes. These numbers are increasing and the number of people with lost of central vision is both eyes is expected to exceed 9% of the total population with some stage of AMD.

AMD is national health problem. Early detection offers the best opportunity to AMD and should be of the highest priority.

Who is at risk for AMD?

The following are a list of risk factors associated with AMD:

  • Cardiovascular disease - AMD is more common is persons who have high blood pressure, vascular disorders and/or arteriosclerosis.
  • Cigarette smoking - Smokers are much more likely to have AMD than nonsmokers, and the higher the level of smoking the greater the risk.
  • Race - Caucasians are at higher risk than African-Americans, Hispanics or Asians.
  • Gender - Women are at higher risk than males.
  • Diet - AMD is significantly higher in persons who have high intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol. Studies also suggest that diets rich in vegetables may be associated with fewer cases of AMD.
  • Excessive sunlight exposure - Excessive sunlight exposure is known to cause cataracts and may contribute to AMD.
  • Family history - There is increasing evidence that AMD may be inherited.

Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Dry AMD accounts for approximately 90% of all cases. Clinical examinations of patients with dry AMD show multiple yellow spots which are accumulations of lipid rich deposits underneath the retinal tissue layer. The buildup of these deposits advances slowly.

Some patients with the early form of dry AMD have excellent visual acuity and no symptoms. However, some people experience symptoms such as

  • Difficulty with reading.
  • Difficulty seeing in dim or darkened lighting.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Distortion of straight lines.

Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Wet AMD is caused by the abnormal growth of blood vessels from the underneath a portion of the retina called the macula. These new blood vessels leak blood and fluid, which destroy the macula and sometimes cause retinal detachment. The onset of wet AMD can occur fairly quickly, often in a matter of weeks, and it can progress and symptoms occur quickly often over a period of as little as one to two years. Symptoms include:

  • Moderate vision loss.
  • Severe vision loss.
  • Blindness within a couple of years.

Treating Wet AMD - There is not always a cure for AMD, however your retina specialist will assess your individual condition and make a diagnosis. Once the diagnosis is made a care plan will be developed that best fits your diagnosis.

Low Vision Rehabilitation

In retinal detachment, a black curtain obscures part of the field of vision corresponding to the portion of the retina that is detached. This is an emergency that often requires immediate surgery.

Success in Treating AMD

One of the keys to success in treating AMD is early detection. Scheduling an annual eye exam with your eye care professional is essential as is contacting your eye care professional at the first sign of vision loss.