Retina

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Overview

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the most common causes of poor vision after age 60. AMD is a deterioration or breakdown of the macula. The macula is a small area at the center of the retina in the back of the eye that allows us to see fine details clearly and perform activities such as reading and driving.

The visual symptoms of AMD involve loss of central vision. While peripheral (side) vision is unaffected, one loses the sharp, straight-ahead vision necessary for driving, reading, recognizing faces, and looking at detail.

Risk Factors

Although the specific cause is unknown, AMD seems to be part of aging. You are more likely to develop AMD if you:

  • are of Caucasian ethnicity

  • eat a diet high in saturated fat (found in foods like meat, butter, and cheese)

  • are overweight

  • smoke cigarettes

  • are over 50 years old

  • have hypertension (high blood pressure)

  • have a family history of AMD

  • have high cholesterol

  • have heart disease

Dry AMD

Nine out of 10 people who have AMD have the dry form of AMD, which results in thinning of the macula. Dry AMD takes many years to develop. Currently there is no treatment for this form of AMD.  However, people with lots of drusen (yellow deposits under the retina) or serious vision loss from dry AMD might benefit from taking a certain combination of nutritional supplements. A large study (AREDS and the later AREDS 2 study) found people with certain drusen may slow their dry AMD by taking these vitamins and minerals daily:

  • Vitamin C (500 mg)

  • Vitamin E (400 IU)

  • Lutein (10 mg)

  • Zeaxanthin (2 mg)

  • Zinc (80 mg)

  • Copper (2 mg)

 

Your ophthalmologist can tell you if vitamins and minerals are recommended for your dry AMD, as not all forms will benefit from the AREDS supplements. Beta carotene should not be used by smokers as it raised the risk of lung cancer.

Wet AMD

The wet form of AMD is less common (occurring in one out of ten people with AMD), but is more serious. In the wet form of AMD, abnormal blood vessels may grow in a layer beneath the retina, leaking fluid and blood and creating distortion or a large blind spot in the center of your vision. Many people don’t realize they have AMD until their vision is very blurry. This is why it is important to have regular visits to an ophthalmologist.  Your surgeon can then look for early signs of AMD before you have any vision problems.

To help treat wet AMD, there are medications called anti-VEGF drugs. Anti-VEGF treatment helps reduce the number of abnormal blood vessels in your retina. It also slows any leaking from blood vessels. This medicine is delivered to your eye through a very slender needle. At Polaris Eye & Laser, we are pleased to provide anti-VEGF treatment for those with wet AMD. 

 

Promising AMD research is being done on many fronts.  In the meantime, high-intensity reading lamps, magnifiers, and other low-vision aids are available for people with AMD to make the most of their remaining vision.

Regular eye exams can usually detect macular degeneration before vision is affected. Your ophthalmologist can promptly treat macular degeneration to protect your vision.

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