Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration, also called age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is an eye disease that affects people’s central vision. It and the leading cause of serious, permanent vision loss among people over 60.

Over 11 million people in the U.S. have some type of age-related macular degeneration, with that number expected to double by 2050 as the population ages, according to the BrightFocus Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports research and education about eye and brain diseases. Caucasians are most susceptible to AMD, followed by Asians and Hispanics. Women develop the disease more often than men.1

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What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular Degeneration causes blurred or reduced central vision due to the breaking down of the center part of the retina known as the macula. The macula is the part of the retina that gives the eye clear precise vision, along with color perception and the ability to perceive contrast. If the macula deteriorates, the resulting loss of detailed, makes it much harder to read, drive a car, recognize faces, and see objects in fine detail.2 Of note, the condition may initially be asymptomatic and thus, a comprehensive eye exam is crucial.

There are two types of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), commonly referred to as “dry” or “wet.” They are named for the kinds of physical changes that affect the retina. The dry type is more common, with slower progression over time. The wet type is more likely to cause a relatively sudden change in vision resulting in serious vision loss if untreated. Both conditions may result is severe vision impairment.  

Risk Factors3

Risk factors that may increase your risk of macular degeneration include:

  • Age. This disease is most common in people over 60.
  • Family history and genetics. This disease has a hereditary component. Researchers have identified several genes linked to the condition.
  • Race. Macular degeneration is more common in white people.
  • Smoking. Smoking cigarettes or being regularly exposed to tobacco smoke greatly increases your risk of macular degeneration.
  • Obesity. Research indicates that being obese may increase your chance that early or intermediate macular degeneration will progress to the more severe form of the disease.
  • Poor diet/lack of exercise
  • Cardiovascular disease. If you have heart or blood vessel disease, you may be at higher risk of macular degeneration.

Symptoms3

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Macular degeneration can affect one or both eyes. If only one eye is affected, you may not notice any changes in your vision. Especially if the good eye may compensate for the affected eye. Macular degeneration symptoms usually develop gradually and without pain. They may include:

  • Visual distortions, such as straight lines seeming bent.
  • Reduced central vision in one or both eyes.
  • The need for brighter light when reading or doing close-up work.
  • Increased difficulty adapting to low light levels, such as when entering a dimly lit restaurant or theater.
  • Increased blurriness of printed words.
  • Difficulty recognizing faces & performing daily tasks
  • A well-defined blurry spot or blind spot in the field of vision.

Is There a Cure for Macular Degeneration?

Regular annual exams from your eye care provider are essential for maintaining your eye health. If any macular or retinal changes suddenly occur, you may require immediate care and treatment from your eye care provider. The sooner diagnosed; the sooner treatment can be initiated.

There is not yet a cure for macular degeneration. However, advancements in the understanding of the causes, and how age-related macular degeneration progresses, have led to the identification of lifestyle habits and treatments that can more effectively slow the progression of AMD and mange and preserve vision longer for many people.2

Resources for More Information

The American Macular Degeneration Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to the prevention, treatment, and cure of macular degeneration, and empowering those with AMD to live to the fullest. The AMDF offers hope and support to those with Age-related Macular Degeneration and their families.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration What You Should Know, “U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Institutes of Health National Eye Institute

“Macular Degeneration,” American Optometric Association

 Age-Related Macular Degeneration: What You Should Know, National Eye Institute - English | Spanish