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.

There are currently considered to be two (2) general types of AMD. These are referred to as the "dry" and the "wet" forms.

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.