Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a prevalent eye condition that affects many people over the age of 50 and is a leading cause of vision loss in the United States. It affects your macula which is part of the retina, the “wallpaper” in the back of your eyes. The macula is responsible for central vision and gives you the sharpest, clearest image. Age-related macular degeneration can, in its worst form, cause central vision loss. Several risk factors for macular degeneration include: family history, increased age, Caucasian race, smoking, obesity, uncontrolled high blood pressure, and a diet rich in saturated fats.
There are two main forms of macular degeneration: dry and wet. Dry macular degeneration represents over 80% of people with AMD. In dry macular degeneration, the macula has deposits that form called drusen. Over time and progression of disease, dry macular degeneration can form a thinning or atrophy in parts of the macula leading to gradual vision loss. There are no treatments for dry macular degeneration currently, however, several large clinical trials, including Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS (2001) and AREDS 2(2013)) have shown that nutritional supplementation can help reduce the risk of progression from dry macular degeneration to wet. A balanced diet with green leafy vegetables, UV protective glasses, and home screenings with Amsler grid are also measures that should be taken to slow progression of dry macular degeneration.
Wet macular degeneration is a less common but more active form of macular degeneration that can advance rapidly. In this form, a net of blood vessels forms under the macula and leaks and bleeds into the macula. This causes a change in the shape of the macula resulting in visual distortion and vision loss. AntiVEGF injections have shown great promise in the early treatment of the disease.
With clinical trials in place for both wet and dry macular degeneration, and with education, early detection, and early intervention, there is hope for this disease. At Frantz EyeCare, my team and I can help our patients by identifying those with the disease, educating them on the condition, and offering further care for them with specialized treatments whenever necessary.
Nisha P Warrier M.D., M.P.H.
Vitreoretinal Surgeon, Frantz EyeCare