Problems & Conditions
According to The American Academy of Ophthalmology, more than two million Americans age 50 and older have advanced AMD. This condition results in the deterioration of the macula – part of the retina that enables us to see fine details. A person with macular degeneration loses sight in the central part of their field of vision.
- Early AMD involves the presence of drusen – fatty deposits under the retina’s light-sensing cells. The connection between drusen and AMD is unclear, but what is known is that an increase in their size or presence often raises a person’s likelihood of contracting late dry AMD or wet AMD. Vision loss in early dry AMD is usually not present but it can appear and progress with the disease, leading to more significant vision loss.
- Intermediate AMD is indicated by the presence of large drusen or pigment changes in the retina or both. There may or may not be any loss of vision.
- Late AMD features vision loss as a result of damage to the macula. There are two types of late AMD – Geographic Atrophy, also called “Dry AMD,” and Neovascular AMD, also called “Wet” AMD.
- Dry AMD involves the deterioration of the macula and the tissue supporting the macula.
- Wet AMD involves the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the retina. These vessels can leak and cause damage to the macula. While less common, Wet AMD is a greater threat to vision than is Dry AMD.
While the exact cause of AMD is unknown, several risk factors for the disease have been identified and include:
- Age (rarely affects those under age 50)
- Race (Caucasian)
- Cigarette smoking
- A diet low in certain antioxidant nutrients
- Cumulative exposure to UV and/or HEV light over the course of your lifetime
Early AMD – Presently there is no treatment for this condition, aside from the recommendation to have a regular eye exam to monitor the disease’s progression. Increasing the amount of antioxidant nutrients in your diet, based on your eye care provider’s recommendation, should also be considered.
Intermediate and Late AMD – National Eye Institute researchers found that certain nutritional substances in specific doses can slow the progression of Intermediate AMD and Late AMD present in one eye.
Unfortunately, there is no generally-accepted treatment for dry AMD. In many cases of wet AMD, laser therapies to destroy leaking blood vessels can help reduce the risk of advancing vision loss. Recent research has shown that specific dosages of zinc, vitamins A and C, and beta-carotene can help slow late AMD’s advancement, but that they appear to have no effect in preventing the disease.
Wet or Neovascular AMD – Several options exist to treat Wet AMD.
- Drug Injections into the eye slow the growth of abnormal blood vessels.
- Photodynamic therapy involves the injection of a drug into the arm. A laser shined into the eye targets the abnormal blood vessels, which have absorbed the drug, and prevents their continued growth
- Laser surgery differs from the laser used in photodynamic therapy and is often referred to as a “hot” laser. It too is targeted at the blood vessels growing abnormally in the eye.
A solution to the reduced or low vision that often accompanies late AMD can often be found in low vision devices which help improve vision in people suffering from AMD.
Additional information about low vision devices and about low vision can be found at the links below.