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Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD or ARMD) is a disease of the macula that causes loss of central vision, leaving side vision relatively unchanged. The macula, an area of the retina that lines the inside back wall of your eye, is responsible for sharp, central vision necessary for many activities such as reading, driving, and recognizing faces. AMD usually occurs in people who are age 50 and older.
There are two forms of AMD – dry and wet. The more common, early form of dry AMD accounts for 85-90% of all AMD patients. In dry AMD, yellow deposits known as drusen begin to accumulate at the macula. Vision loss is generally slow and gradual. At any time, dry AMD can progress to the more severe, wet AMD where there is swelling under the macula caused by leaky new abnormal blood vessels or choroidal neovascularization (CNV) leading to a sudden loss of vision.
Although the exact cause is unknown, AMD risk factors include: age, smoking (2-3 times higher risk in smokers), a family history of AMD, being Caucasian or female, obesity (body mass index (BMI) >30 has 2.5 times greater risk), hypertension, high cholesterol, and prolonged UV exposure.
No cure or treatments exist for dry AMD, although nutritional supplements such as zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin and antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E may help prevent or slow its progression. FDA-approved drugs directed at the abnormal blood vessels in wet AMD include Visudyne with Photodynamic Therapy (PDT), Avastin, Macugen, Lucentis, Eylea, and anti-VEGF injection therapy.
Early signs of macular degeneration can be detected in a comprehensive dilated retinal exam. Have your eyes examined yearly by your optometrist. If you are age 50 or older and are concerned of the symptoms you're experiencing, have an exam sooner as early detection and appropriate follow-up care are keys to preserving your vision.