Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

According to The American Academy of Ophthalmology, more than two million Americans age 50 and older have advanced AMD. This condition results in the deterioration of the macula – part of the retina that enables us to see fine details. A person with macular degeneration loses sight in the central part of their field of vision.

The National Eye Institute has prepared a helpful guide and worksheet to explain AMD better and prepare you for discussions with your eye doctor. Download the AMD guide here.

Experience AMD through Virtual Reality

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) causes blurriness or spots in the center of your vision. View an example of what that may look like thanks to this content from the National Eye Institute’s virtual reality experience.

Early AMD

Early AMD involves the presence of drusen – fatty deposits under the retina’s light-sensing cells. The connection between drusen and AMD is unclear. But what is known is that an increase in their size or presence often raises a person’s likelihood of contracting late dry AMD or wet AMD. Vision loss in early dry AMD is usually not present but it can appear and progress with the disease, leading to more significant vision loss.

Treatment: Presently there is no treatment for this condition, aside from the recommendation to have a regular eye exam to monitor the disease’s progression. Increasing the amount of antioxidant nutrients in your diet, based on your eye care provider’s recommendation, should also be considered. Many people can also enhance their quality of life with low vision devices even at the early stages of AMD.

Intermediate AMD

Intermediate AMD is indicated by the presence of large drusen or pigment changes in the retina or both. There may or may not be any loss of vision.

Treatment: National Eye Institute researchers found that certain nutritional substances in specific doses can slow the progression of Intermediate AMD and Late AMD present in one eye. Low Vision devices can also be purchased to help improve vision in people suffering from AMD.

Late AMD

Late AMD features vision loss as a result of damage to the macula. There are two types of late AMD – Geographic Atrophy (Dry AMD) and Neovascular AMD (Wet AMD).

Wet AMD is caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the macula and central vision loss occurs rapidly.

Treatment: Several options exist to treat Wet AMD.

  • Drug Injections into the eye slow the growth of abnormal blood vessels.
  • Photodynamic therapy involves the injection of a drug into the arm. A laser shined into the eye targets the abnormal blood vessels, which have absorbed the drug, and prevents their continued growth
  • Laser surgery differs from the laser used in photodynamic therapy and is often referred to as a “hot” laser. It too is targeted at the blood vessels growing abnormally in the eye.

Dry AMD involves the light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly breaking down, leading to a gradual loss of central vision.

Treatment: Unfortunately, there is no generally-accepted treatment for dry AMD. In many cases of wet AMD, laser therapies to destroy leaking blood vessels can help reduce the risk of advancing vision loss. Recent research has shown that specific dosages of zinc, vitamins A, vitamin C, and beta-carotene can help slow late AMD’s advancement, but that they appear to have no effect in preventing the disease.

A solution to the reduced or low vision that often accompanies late AMD can often be found in low vision devices which help improve vision in people suffering from AMD.

Risk Factors

While the exact cause of AMD is unknown, several risk factors for the disease have been identified and include:

  • Genetics
  • Age (rarely affects those under age 50)
  • Race (Caucasian)
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Diet low in certain antioxidant nutrients