What Causes Macular Degeneration?
While anyone can develop AMD, some are more at risk than others. This includes people who:
- Are 50 years of age or older
- Eat a diet high in saturated fat (found in foods such as meat, butter and cheese)
- Are overweight
- Have hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Have a family history of AMD
- Are Caucasian
- Have heart disease
- Have high cholesterol
What Is the Difference Between Dry + Wet Macular Degeneration?
In one out of 10 people, dry AMD progresses to wet AMD. Here’s how it happens:
Dry macular degeneration (atrophic AMD): Most people with AMD have dry AMD. This condition occurs when the tissues of the macula get thinner with age and tiny clumps of protein (called drusen) grow. Dry AMD occurs in three stages: early, intermediate and late. It is a progressive disease, meaning the symptoms usually get worse over time. Dry AMD usually progresses slowly over several years. If you have late dry AMD in only one eye, you can take some steps to protect your other eye. Early AMD always starts out as dry, but in some cases it can develop into wet AMD.
Wet macular degeneration (advanced neovascular AMD): This less common type of late AMD usually causes faster vision loss. While any stage of dry AMD can turn into wet AMD, wet AMD is always late stage. It occurs when abnormal blood vessels form under the retina, in the back of the eye, where they may leak blood or other fluids, causing scarring and damage to the macula. Wet AMD progresses far more rapidly than dry AMD, with more severe effects—potentially including complete central vision loss. Fortunately, there are treatment options available for wet AMD.
Your eye doctor can check for early signs of AMD—and identify it before you have or notice any vision problems.
Symptoms of AMD
Symptoms of AMD depend on the type and stage:
- Early dry AMD usually doesn’t cause any symptoms
- Intermediate dry AMD sometimes presents with no symptoms, while at other times there may be mild symptoms such as:
- Mild blurriness in central vision
- Difficulty seeing in low light
- Late AMD (wet or dry) symptoms include:
- Straight lines starting to appear wavy or crooked
- Blurry area near the center of your vision—over time, this area may get bigger or you may notice blank spots
- Colors appear less bright or faded
- Increased difficulty seeing in low lighting
Straight lines appearing wavy is a warning sign for late AMD. If you notice this symptom, see your eye doctor immediately.
Treatment + Management of AMD
Much like the symptoms of AMD, the treatment options depend on the stage and type.
Dry macular degeneration
There is currently no known treatment for early AMD, so your doctor may recommend regular exams to monitor the condition of your eyes. 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.
For individuals with a lot of drusen or with serious vision loss, taking a certain combination of nutritional supplements may prove beneficial. The specific formula of eye vitamins used in the studies has been shown to help reduce the risk of progression in patients with moderate to advanced AMD.*