What You Need to Know About Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Did you know that macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among Americans over age 50? Today, cases of this progressive eye disease that are related to aging number about 9 million, but with the rapidly maturing population in the United States, research suggests that number will balloon to 17.8 million cases by 2050.

The good news is, with patient education and promotion of routine eye care to more adults, we can potentially reduce that number, or at least prevent natural macular degeneration from progressing to blindness for more people.

What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD or ARMD, is an eye disease that causes deterioration of the macula, which is a small area within the retina that controls your central vision. While macular degeneration can affect patients of any age who may have underlying contributing conditions, it is most commonly a consequence of your eyes’ natural aging process, and so it is typically seen—and screened for—in individuals older than 50 years.

Unlike with glaucoma, another often age-related progressive eye issue, AMD does not reduce your peripheral vision. This means that macular degeneration is often more obvious to the patient that something is wrong, but you should not wait until symptoms progress to the point of blurred, fuzzy vision and other problems before you seek professional intervention from a skilled eye doctor.

Our library of videos about macular degeneration offers additional information about what AMD looks and feels like so patients can better understand their options for care and treatment, as well as how important it is to get tested for macular generation after age 50.

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What are the types of AMD?

Two established types of AMD are most common. They are classified as “dry” or “wet” versions of the disease, with the former being the most frequently occurring.

Dry Macular Degeneration – non-neovascular

About 80% of people with AMD have the dry form, which is less serious overall, but unfortunately has no cure. Dry macular degeneration is diagnosed when yellowish spots called drusen begin to accumulate in and around the macula. These spots are believed to be deposits or debris from deteriorating tissue.

Wet Macular Degeneration – neovascular

The wet form of AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels begin to grow under the retina and leak blood or other fluids. This causes scarring of the macula and very quickly leads to noticeable vision loss, which may constitute an eye health emergency. The good news is that several treatments are available to address the underlying structural problems that cause wet AMD. We’ll touch on those in just a moment.

Signs and Symptoms of AMD

The number one sign of AMD that prompts patients to seek help from an eye care professional is very blurry vision. While it’s true that this symptom comes on much more quickly with wet AMD, in the more common dry form of the disease, blurry vision actually signals that AMD has been active for some time and has progressed.

As we discussed in an earlier post here on the blog, numerous clinical studies have shown that dark adaptation—the recovery of vision when going from daylight to darkness—is dramatically impaired from the earliest stages of AMD. This means that utilizing new testing resources to check for dark adaptation impairment can help determine whether you have AMD before more noticeable vision changes start.

If we have not yet stressed it enough, you should not wait until you’re experiencing trouble with your vision to make an appointment with an eye care provider. Regular, yearly eye exams are essential to your general health and can slow the progression of many different eye diseases through early intervention.

Who is at risk of developing AMD?

Your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration increases quickly after you’ve celebrated your 50th birthday, and this is when you should begin regular testing. Other risk factors include:

  • Family history of the disease
  • Being female
  • Being Caucasian
  • Having a regular cigarette smoking habit (now or in the past)
  • Eating a diet high in saturated fats
  • Being significantly overweight or obese

AMD Treatment and Prevention

No FDA-approved treatment for dry AMD currently exists, but nutritional approaches to slowing the disease’s progression are helpful for many. Eye care professionals recommend a diet rich in antioxidants and can also provide guidance on adding certain potentially beneficial supplements to your daily eating plan.

For wet form AMD, as we previously mentioned, there are several ways in which ophthalmologists can treat the underlying causes of the disease, which include various laser treatment techniques, periodic therapeutic chemical injections into the eyes, and oral medications.

In terms of prevention for AMD, unfortunately, some individuals are naturally at a higher risk, but lifestyle decisions like pursuing a healthy diet and not smoking may help stave off macular degeneration for longer.

Testing for Macular Degeneration

As we shared within that earlier blog post also linked above, your eye doctor has a variety of tests available to catch AMD before you notice symptoms like blurred vision. Here at Campus Eye Center, we’re one of the few eye care practices in the region to offer Maculogix AdaptDx screening, an advanced dark adaptation test. AdaptDx can provide information to earlier detect macular damage and allow for prompt intervention.

If you are over 50 years of age or have a family history of macular degeneration, you will want to add this test to your routine eye exam. It is also recommended for smokers and those who are overweight or who have poor night vision.

Campus Eye Center Can Help You Detect and Manage AMD

In the Lancaster, PA area, Campus Eye Center is recognized as one of the best resources for helping patients live better by seeing better. If you have concerns about age-related macular degeneration, other eye diseases, or you are simply overdue for routine vision care, please get in touch to make an appointment at one of our two convenient locations today!