Age related macular degeneration ( AMD ) is a
progressive breakdown of the macula (central portion) of
the retina of the eye. Unfortunately, this degenerative
condition specifically targets the macular area of the
retina, which provides us with our fine or sharp vision.
AMD is the most common cause of permanent vision loss in
people over 60 years of age in our society. The
frequency with which people are affected increases with
age with perhaps one third ( 1/3 ) of the population
being affected to some degree by age 75. The disorder
affects Caucasians far more frequently than it does
Blacks and Hispanics.
Macular degeneration is capable of causing a loss of our
sharpest vision making everyday tasks such as reading,
television watching, sewing and driving difficult if not
impossible. While many sufferers retain reduced but
useful vision the condition may progress to cause what
is called legal blindness for some. However, it does not
cause complete blindness, as the peripheral areas of the
retina remain unaffected.
are currently considered to be two (2) general types of
AMD. These are referred to as the "dry" and the "wet"
The "wet" type is the less common of the two and
typically results from new blood vessels growing under
the retina which bleed and produce swelling and scar
tissue in the macula. The loss of vision can be severe
and may be noticed to occur over a brief period of weeks
or even days.
The "dry" form is by far the commonest. While it does
not cause significant impairment for many sufferers
others do experience a progressive and potentially
severe worsening of vision. It is indeed fortunate that
the typical vision loss associated with this commonest
form of macular degeneration is less severe than that
accompanying the "wet" form.
There currently exists no proven treatment to prevent or
reverse the effects of "dry" AMD although laser
treatment can help stabilize the condition in many
cases. For certain patients affected with the "wet"
variety, laser treatment may succeed in sealing the
leaking or bleeding blood vessels. It is important to
realize that this treatment for the "wet" type depends
on early diagnosis of the problem and doesn't reverse or
restore any vision already lost but it does tend to
prevent further loss.
AMD is caused by various factors. We know that both
genetics and increasing age play a role. Studies have
suggested that factors such as high blood pressure,
nutrition, smoking and excessive exposure to sunlight
may be contributing factors.
Scientific studies conducted in recent years have
pointed to nutrition as playing a role in the
development of AMD. These studies have found that people
with diets rich in certain vegetables, particularly
leafy green vegetables such as spinach, are affected
less frequently with macular degeneration. Studies are
being conducted to determine whether taking specific
nutritional supplements can slow the progression of AMD
or perhaps even prevent it.