Often called ARMD or AMD, Age related macular degeneration is one of the primary causes of blindness and vision loss among older Americans. This medical condition is caused by a result of vision loss in the macular or the vision field center due to retina damage. It occurs in ‘wet’ or ‘dry’ forms. In older adults fifty years old and above, it is a main cause of visual impairment and blindness, affecting between thirty to fifty million individuals around the globe. This disease can make it impossible or difficult to recognize or read faces although vision in the periphery allows other daily life activities to occur.
In itself, macular degeneration won’t lead to being totally blind. In many cases, peripheral vision remains. Other conditions that may complicate things include untreated glaucoma, severe trauma or stroke. Total vision loss is something that few patients of macular degeneration go through.
Family history plays a part in developing this disease. Those with a relative that has it will have a fifty per cent chance of developing macular degeneration in its late stages as well. Also, around ten per cent of individuals that are between sixty-six to seventy-four years old will have macular degeneration findings. If you have Stargardt’s disease, there is a higher risk of you developing AMD later on. There is also a gene for macular degeneration that increases risk factors. Other risk factors include consuming high amounts of fat, abdominal obesity, elevated cholesterol and individuals with high blood pressure. In addition, smoking, vitamin D deficiency, exposure to sunlight and being Caucasian does play a part in increasing the chances of developing this disease later on in life.
Symptoms and Signs
- Macular degeneration has a few symptoms and signs that include
- In an Amsler grid straight lines seem to curve
- Less sensitivity to contrast
- Trouble discerning light colors from other light colors and dark colors from other lighter colors.
- Missing areas of vision or seeing shadowy areas, called central scotomas
- Blurry vision
- Geographic and incipient atrophy
- Metamorphopsia distorted vision
- Changes in pigments
- Tiny extracellular material accumulations that build up on the retina called Drusen
Wet and Dry
Macular degeneration may either be wet or dry. The diagnosis involves wet or neovascular or dry, or non-neovascular. These refer to the area’s growth of new blood vessels such as the macula where there really shouldn’t be. Compared to the wet form, the dry form is more common. The disease in the wet form usually leads to vision loss that is more serious.
- Wet Macular Degeneration
Also called neovascular degeneration, the wet form of macular degeneration occurs when there is new blood vessel growth which leak fluid and blood from beneath. This leak causes damage to retinal light sensitive cells which turn out to be permanent.
- Dry Macular Degeneration
This is the diagnosis when Drusen or yellow spots begin accumulating around and within the macula. Deposits or debris from tissue that has deteriorated is thought to be the cause of these spots. The best way to protect your eyes from dry macular degeneration is to wear sunglasses, eat a healthy diet and protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Usually, this type of macular degeneration results in a painless, slow vision loss. There can even be sudden vision loss in rare cases. One way to tell if you are having problems with vision such as this is to look at an Amsler Grid and check to see if you are seeing things as they are or if the lines appear curved.