Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in older Americans. This eye disease damages the macula—a small region in the center of the retina, the eye’s light-sensitive tissue. The macula contains millions of cells that give us sharp, central, and color vision—which we use to read, write, watch TV, drive, and do other everyday tasks. AMD is progressive and may worsen over time but advances differently from person to person and even from eye to eye. Some people go for years without noticeable symptoms, while others experience rapid vision loss. Eye-care professionals can detect AMD and monitor its progress with a dilated eye exam.
There are two types of AMD. In dry AMD, the macula gradually breaks down. In wet AMD, abnormal and fragile blood vessels grow underneath the macula, leak, and cause swelling and damage that can lead to rapid and severe vision loss. AMD rarely causes complete blindness, however, wet AMD can lead to legal blindness without proper treatment.
AMD is more common with age. People with a family history and who are Caucasian have higher risk. There are things you can do to prevent or delay vision loss: don’t smoke, wear sunglasses, incorporate vision-protecting vitamins and minerals into your diet, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight, control high blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors, and get regular comprehensive dilated eye exams (especially if you notice changes in your vision).
Certain high-dose vitamins have been shown to slow vision loss. For wet AMD, there are a number of treatments that can help slow and even restore vision loss and a number are on the horizon. If you have vision loss from AMD, low-vision rehabilitation can also help, and there are many resources out there to help you adapt and live a full life with your remaining vision.