Age-related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in Americans over age 50*1. It causes the central area of your retina, called the macula, to gradually break down.
What does the macula do?
The macula is responsible for your central vision. It allows you to see things directly ahead and see fine details. When your macula breaks down, reading and recognizing faces become difficult or impossible.
What are the risk factors for AMD?
The main risk factors for AMD are:
- aging – this is the biggest risk factor for AMD; AMD is more common in older people and 14% of Americans age 80 and over have the disease*2
- family history – if a close relative has AMD, you are more likely to develop it
- race – AMD is more common among white Americans
- lifestyle – smoking, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise can increase your risk of AMD
What are the 2 types of AMD?
The 2 types of AMD are wet AMD and dry AMD. They both cause the macula to break down but in different ways.
Dry AMD is the most common type of AMD and accounts for 90% of AMD cases in America*3. It causes the cells in the macula to die and causes yellow deposits called drusen to build up in your retina. Dry AMD progresses more slowly than wet AMD.
Wet AMD happens suddenly and rapidly breaks down the macula. It causes leaky blood vessels to grow into the macula, which stops the macula from working properly.
Both types of AMD damage your central vision and do not cause complete blindness as your side vision is unaffected.
Can AMD be treated?
There is no cure for AMD but if wet AMD is caught early, it can be treated to limit the damage. There are 2 treatments available for wet AMD:
- injections into the eye of anti-VEGF medicines to slow the growth of blood vessels into the retina
- photodynamic therapy – a type of laser treatment
There are no effective treatments for dry AMD but research suggests that good nutrition can help slow its progress. Your eye doctor may recommend special dietary supplements, including antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin, omega 3, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc.
*1 American Academy of Ophthalmology
*2 NIH National Eye Institute