What Is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Age-Related Macular Degeneration, also called AMD or ARMD, is an eye condition that damages the macula, which is a part of the retina. The retina is a layer of light-sensitive cells that work with the brain to convert light into images. The macula sits in the center of the retina and age-related macular degeneration causes central vision loss in older adults.
Types of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is classified into two types:
- Dry AMD is the more common type and occurs when the macula becomes thinner with age and accumulates clumps of protein.
- Wet AMD is a serious, but less common, form of macular degeneration in which abnormal blood vessels that are prone to leaking and scarring grow underneath the retina.
Symptoms of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related Macular Degeneration does not have any symptoms in the early stages of the disease. As it progresses, people with AMD may notice that straight lines look curved or distorted. Later stage AMD may cause blurred or whited-out areas of vision or changes in color. Eventually, AMD will cause a loss of central vision.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Facts and Stats
Information about Age-Related Macular Degeneration from the National Eye Institute:
- AMD affects more than 2 million people in the United States
- AMD is a leading cause of vision loss for Americans over the age of 60
- AMD is more prevalent among White Americans over the age of 70
- Men and women get AMD, but it is more likely to affect women
What Causes Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Age-Related Macular Degeneration can affect anyone, but there are certain risk factors that may increase your likelihood of developing AMD. In addition to being over 50, risk factors include:
- A family history of macular degeneration
- Smoking cigarettes
- Eating high levels of saturated fat
- Having heart disease or hypertension
Treatment Options for Age-Related Macular Degeneration
There are minimal treatment options for Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Patients with early to intermediate Dry AMD may be prescribed special antioxidant vitamins to slow the progression of the disease. Wet AMD can be treated with medications called anti–vascular endothelial growth factor therapy (anti-VEGF) or photodynamic therapy (PDT) that combines injectable medication with laser treatments.
On the Horizon: Advancements in Macular Degeneration Treatment
While treatment options for AMD are currently quite limited, the American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that there are several promising treatments in development for both dry and wet AMD.The next evolution in wet AMD treatment may include improved medication options as well as gene therapy that could reduce or eliminate the need for regular medication.
Dry AMD is the most common form of the disease and new treatments could be a breakthrough in the effort to preserve vision. Clinical trials are currently underway for an immune therapy that utilizes medications to improve the body’s immune response in a way that could prevent vision loss. Experts are also studying the possibility of stem cell therapy as a treatment for dry AMD.
Frequently Asked Questions About Age-Related Macular Degeneration
How is Macular Degeneration Diagnosed?
Macular degeneration can be detected during a dilated eye exam. Your eye doctor may use a variety of diagnostic tools to confirm a diagnosis of AMD.
Is There a Cure for Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
No, there is currently no cure for AMD. It is important to have regular eye exams so your eye doctor can create a treatment plan to help slow the progression of the disease and slow or prevent vision loss.
Can I Prevent Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
AMD is largely a genetic condition, but there are lifestyle changes you can make to minimize your risk:
- Eat a healthy diet rich in vitamins and antioxidants
- Do not smoke
- Protect your eyes from the sun and UV rays
- Get regular eye exams
Learn About Treatment Options and Clinical Studies
1 National Eye Institute. Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Data and Statistics. Available: https://www.nei.nih.gov/ Accessed November 3, 2021
2 American Academy of Ophthalmology. What is Macular Degeneration? Available: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/amd-macular-degeneration#risks Accessed November 3, 2021
3 American Academy of Ophthalmology. New Treatments for Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Available: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/promising-new-treatments-amd Accessed November 3, 2021