Vision with age-related macular degeneration

If you’ve been diagnosed with Age-related Macular Degeneration (commonly abbreviated as AMD), you’re not alone. More than 10 million people in the US are affected by this condition. In fact, it’s the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 65.

AMD is a condition that affects the center of the retina, called the macula. The macula is the part of the eye responsible for our most acute vision, which we use when reading, driving, and performing other activities that require fine, sharp, or straight-ahead vision. Typically, changes in the macula from AMD are gradual, but in some cases, vision loss is faster and more noticeable.

There are two different types of AMD:


Dry macular degeneration: about 90% of people diagnosed with AMD have dry AMD. This condition occurs when the tissues of the macula begin to age and thin. Dry AMD is also associated with tiny yellow deposits called drusen that form beneath the retina. People with dry AMD typically experience a less severe degree of vision loss, and it develops slowly. Early AMD always starts out as dry, but in about 10% of cases it can develop into wet AMD.

Wet macular degeneration: occurs when delicate, abnormal blood vessels form under the retina. These fragile vessels leak blood and fluid beneath the retina, causing it to distort or scar. This is the reason for loss of sharp vision in people with wet AMD. Wet AMD progresses far more rapidly than dry AMD, with more severe effects—potentially including complete central vision loss. Although this type of AMD affects only about 10% of people with the disease, it is responsible for 90% of severe vision loss associated with AMD.

Risk factors for AMD

While the causes of AMD may be unknown; age, lifestyle and nutrition appear to play a role. Things like:

  • Genetic risk factors:
    • age
    • family history of AMD
    • skin/eye color: people with light-colored skin and eyes are more likely to develop AMD

  • Rick factors you can control:
    • smoking - smokers are three to four times more likely to develop AMD compared to nonsmokers
    • diet - diets low in certain antioxidant such as vitamins C and E, lutein, and zinc may be a risk factor
    • obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol - all can contribute to the development of AMD 
    • excessive exposure to sunlight - protect your eyes from ultraviolet rays by wearing sunglasses 

Symptoms of AMD

AMD causes damage to the macula, a part of the retina that gives us the sharp central vision we need to perform activities that require high-definition, straight-ahead vision. So, what you see up close or at a distance may be blurry or hazy. Brighter light may be needed when reading or it may be difficult to adapt from bright light to low light. As the disease advances, there may be dark or blank spots in vision or faces may become blurry. Other signs include visual distortions, such as straight lines appearing wavy or objects appearing larger or smaller than they really are.

  • Blurred vision
  • A dark or empty area in the central area of vision
  • Distortion of straight lines

Monitor your vision

AMD is a condition that should be monitored closely. You can check your vision with an Amsler grid, a tool that helps you watch out for subtle changes in your vision. Click to view or print an Amsler grid.

Some changes in your AMD may only be detected by an eye care professional, so it is important to keep your eye doctor appointments as directed.

Management of AMD

Since peripheral vision is not affected, many people with dry AMD continue in their normal lifestyles with the aid of low-vision optical devices, such as magnifiers.There are currently no treatments for dry AMD. The use of eye vitamins as studied in the AREDS and AREDS2 studies have been shown to help reduce the risk of progression in patients with moderate to advanced AMD.* 

PreserVision AREDS 2 has the exact nutrient formula recommended by the National Eye institute (NEI) based on the AREDS2 Study.

Wet AMD is treated with injected medications and/or laser surgery by sealing off the leaking blood vessels. These are usually brief and painless outpatient procedures that slow and sometimes even reverse, the progression of the degeneration. A small, permanently dark spot may be left where the laser makes contact, however.

Additional Information

 
AREDS and AREDS2 are registered trademark of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Photo courtesy of National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health.


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