Age-Related Macular Degeneration


What is Macular Degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is a deterioration or breakdown of the macula. The macula is the part of the retina that is responsible for your central vision, allowing you to see fine details clearly. Many older people develop ARMD as part of the aging process. There are different kinds of macular problems, but the most common is age-related macular degeneration.

What are the Symptoms of ARMD?

ARMD causes a wide spectrum of visual decrease, ranging from a slight "haziness" to loss of central vision. You may experience symptoms such as blurriness at distance and/or for reading, dark areas or distortion in your central vision, seeing colors less vividly, and increased need for bright light while reading. ARMD does not usually affect your peripheral, or side vision but can cause permanent loss of central vision.

What Causes ARMD?

Most people who have ARMD have the "dry" form, caused by aging and thinning of the tissues of the macula. Macular degeneration usually begins when drusen forms under the retina. Eventually, the macula may become thinner and stop working properly. With dry ARMD, vision loss is typically gradual. People with dry ARMD should carefully monitor their central vision and notify their ophthalmologist of any changes in vision, as that could signify a conversion to the more damaging form of ARMD called wet (exudative) macular degeneration.

Wet ARMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels begin to grow underneath the retina in the macular area. These new blood vessels are fragile and may leak fluid or blood, blurring or distorting central vision. Vision loss from this form of macular degeneration may occur rapidly and causes significantly decreased vision. People with wet ARMD may notice distorted vision, blank spots in their vision, and/or objects appearing to be a different size with each eye. Smokers and people with high blood pressure are at increased risk of converting to wet ARMD.

Treatment for ARMD

Unfortunately there is no proven treatment for the dry form of macular degeneration. However, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) showed that certain dietary supplements, such as MacularProtect Complete (Science Based Health), lower the risk of macular degeneration progressing to advanced stages by about 25 percent. The daily supplements also reduced the risk of vision loss for those at risk by about 19 percent. It is important to remember that vitamin supplements are not a cure for ARMD and will not give you back vision that has been lost, but may help you maintain your present level of vision.

Treatment of wet ARMD typically reduces, but does not eliminate, the risk of severe vision loss. Treatments for wet macular degeneration may involve anti-VEGF medication injections, thermal laser therapy, or photodynamic therapy.

While there may be little that can be done to improve the sight of someone with ARMD, the rate of vision loss can be curbed with early detection. Understanding ARMD, being aware of your symptoms, and regular exams with your eye physician are important keys in slowing visual loss from macular degeneration.


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