According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology AMD is the leading cause of blindness in the United States today for those over the age of fifty years. Although some macular dystrophies that affect younger individuals are referred to as macular degeneration, the term generally refers to age-related macular degeneration (AMD or ARMD).
Macular degeneration is diagnosed as either dry (non-neovascular) or wet (neovascular). Neovascular refers to growth of new blood vessels in an area, such as the macula, where they are not supposed to be. The dry form is more common, with about 85-90 percent of AMD patients diagnosed with dry AMD. The wet form of the disease usually leads to more serious vision loss.
Dry AMD is an early stage of the disease and may result from the aging and thinning of macular tissues, depositing of pigment in the macula or a combination of the two processes.
Dry macular degeneration is diagnosed when yellowish spots known as drusen begin to accumulate from deposits or debris from deteriorating tissue primarily in the area of the macula. Gradual central vision loss may occur with dry macular degeneration but is not nearly as severe as symptoms associated with the wet form of AMD.
No FDA-approved treatments are available for the dry form of macular degeneration. A major National Eye Institute study (AREDS) has produced strong evidence that certain nutrients such as beta carotene (vitamin A) and vitamins C and E may help prevent or slow progression of dry macular degeneration and can reduce risk of early stage AMD progression by 25 percent. Some eye doctors also recommend that dry AMD patients wear sunglasses with UV protection against potentially harmful effects of the sun.
In about 10 percent of cases, dry AMD progresses to a more advanced and damaging form of the eye disease known as wet macular degeneration. With wet AMD, new blood vessels grow (neovascularization) beneath the retina and leak blood and fluid. This leakage causes permanent damage to light-sensitive retinal cells, which die off and create blind spots in central vision. Neovascularization, the underlying process causing wet AMD and abnormal blood vessel growth, is the body's misguided way of attempting to create a new network of blood vessels to supply more nutrients and oxygen to the eye's retina. But the process instead creates scarring, leading to sometimes severe central vision loss.
The Macular Degeneration Foundation is dedicated to those who have and will develop macular degeneration. Services include links to resources such as Low Vision Centers, Therapists, Physicians, and Support Groups in your area. In addition, the Foundation gives financial support to researchers investigating treatments and others helping those coping with the challenges of living with the loss of their central vision.
The AMD Alliance International is the only international organization dedicated exclusively to macular disease. With 71 members in 27 countries, they are comprised of prominent leaders in ophthalmology, vision rehabilitation, research and patient and senior's advocacy. With our broad global reach, and members across wide-ranging political, cultural and geographic spectrums, we play a major role in increasing awareness of macular degeneration around the world and influencing governments to recognize AMD as a health priority.
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