The leading cause of visual loss in the senior population of the United States is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This condition causes deterioration—and can cause the eventual loss—of central vision. There are several risk factors for macular degeneration. Some of these risk factors, such as age or genetics (that is, inherited traits), cannot be controlled.
Other risk factors, such as smoking, poor diet, and sunlight exposure, can be reduced through changes in behavior.The most common type of macular degeneration is the “dry” form. In dry macular degeneration, there is progressive thinning (atrophy) and the depositing of waste products (drusen) in the retina. Although vision loss can occur, it is usually minimal and progresses slowly
The “wet” form of macular degeneration is only responsible for about 10% of macular degeneration cases. With wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels are stimulated to grow beneath the retina. Leakage and bleeding from these abnormal vessels can destroy central vision. Because the wet form of macular degeneration can be devastating, we have been searching for ways to prevent it from occurring. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) has shown that taking vitamins (vitamin supplementation) is important in slowing the progression of macular degeneration in patients with moderate dry macular degeneration or in patients with more advanced disease in one eye only. However, always consult with your physician before taking such supplements.
Metamorphopsia (distortion) is usually the first symptom that appears in a patient when wet macular degeneration begins, so this symptom should be evaluated by fluorescein angiography to identify the presence and location of any abnormal new blood vessels.