The macula is a part of the retina in the back of the eye that allows our central vision to see sharply and clearly. Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) occurs when the arteries that nourish the retina harden. Deprived of nutrients, the retinal tissues begin to weaken and die, causing vision loss. Patients may experience anything from a blurry, gray or distorted area or even parts of their vision missing.
AMD is the number-one cause of vision loss in the U.S. Macular degeneration doesn’t cause total blindness because it doesn’t affect the peripheral vision. One of the highest risk factor for macular degeneration include genetics coupled with a history of heavy smoking, poor diet, with unprotected sunlight exposure according to the National Eye Institute (NEI). Regular eye exams are highly recommended to detect macular degeneration early and prevent permanent vision loss.
Symptoms of macular degeneration include:
- A gradual loss of ability to see objects clearly
- A gradual loss of color vision
- Distorted or blurry vision
- Dark or empty areas appearing in the center of vision
There are two kinds of AMD: wet (neovascular/exudative) and dry (non-neovascular). About 10-15% of people with AMD have the wet form and is the worse form. “Neovascular” means “new vessels.” These abnormal new vessels are very fragile, and often leak blood and fluid between the layers of the retina. This leakage distort vision, causes the layers of the retina to separate as well causes scar tissue to form when the blood dries. This causes detrimental visual changes.
Dry AMD is much more common than wet AMD, and thankfully causes less severe visual changes. Patients with this type of macular degeneration do not experience new vessel growth. Instead, dry AMD is a result of loss of retinal pigment and formation of small round particles inside the retina called drusen. Vision loss with dry AMD is slower.
Recent developments in ophthalmology allow doctors to treat many patients with early-stage AMD with the help of life-style and nutritional counselling, vitamins, and injections or laser surgery when necessary.