Macular Degeneration

One of the primary diseases eye doctors look for during an annual comprehensive exam is Macular Degeneration.  Macular degeneration (also called AMD, ARMD, or age-related macular degeneration) is an age-related condition in which the most sensitive part of the retina, called the macula, starts to break down and lose its ability to create clear visual images. The macula is responsible for central vision – the part of our sight we use to read, drive and recognize faces. So although a person’s peripheral vision is left unaffected by AMD, the most important aspect of vision is lost.

AMD is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in Americans of ages 65 and older. And because older people represent an increasingly larger percentage of the general population, vision loss associated with macular degeneration is a growing problem.

If you are concerned about AMD don't wait, contact an eye doctor near you today!

It’s estimated that more than 1.75 million U.S. residents currently have significant vision lossrelated to  AMD, and that number is expected to grow to almost 3 million by 2020.

What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration usually produces a slow, painless loss of vision. Early signs of vision loss associated with AMD can include seeing shadowy areas in your central vision or experiencing unusually fuzzy or distorted vision. In rare cases, AMD may cause a sudden loss of central vision.

Macular Degeneration Test

An eye care professional usually can detect early signs of macular degeneration before symptoms occur. Usually this is accomplished through a retinal examination.

Dilating the eyes can sometimes be a frustrating thing to undergo at your eye exam, but it's necessary so the eye doctor can get a better look at the back of your eyes. Through this macular degeneration test, your eye doctor can more thoroughly evaluate your blood vessels, retina and the optic nerve. If there are changes with any of those things, it's possible you may have an eye disease that would need further attention.

Nutrition and Macular Degeneration

Many researchers and eye care practitioners believe that certain nutrients — zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamins A, C and E — help lower the risk for AMD or slow down the progression of dry macular degeneration. Benefits of high levels of antioxidants and zinc for halting or slowing development of macular degeneration have been widely reported based on results released in 2001 from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) conducted by the National Eye Institute.

Phase two of the AREDS study began in late 2005 to evaluate whether similar protective effects against AMD might be associated with other nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids or "good fats," and lutein and zeaxanthin found in green, leafy vegetables.

Archives of Ophthalmology reported findings in August 2001 that consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, which are particularly prevalent in cold-water fish, also had a protective effect against advanced macular degeneration. Meanwhile, consumption of omega-6 fatty acids, prevalent in vegetable oils, was associated with an increased risk of developing AMD.

Health Tips

Folks age 65 and older need to be aware of macular degeneration. It’s a condition that affects a person’s retina, and causes it to begin to deteriorate. At first, it might cause blind spots to appear in the central part of a person’s vision. Left untreated, it can lead to blindness. Don’t take chances – have your eyes examined annually.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there different types or forms of Macular Degeneration?

The two different forms of macular degeneration include wet macular degeneration and dry macular degeneration.

Wet macular degeneration occurs when age-related macular degeneration (AMD) advances into a more serious condition. In these severe cases, new blood vessels under the macula leak fluid and blood, resulting in blurry vision. It is only possible to contract wet macular degeneration if you already have dry macular degeneration.

The most common form of AMD, dry macular degeneration, has three stages: early, intermediate and advanced. With this condition, cells in the macula slowly deteriorate and the macular tissue thins. Once the tissue becomes too thin the macula stops working correctly.

How do I know if I'm at risk for Macular Degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration usually occurs in people age 50 and older, with the risk increasing over time. In addition to the age, complement factor H is a hereditary gene that also contributes to the risk of getting AMD.

Are there lifestyle habits that contribute to my risk of Macular Degeneration?

While AMD is generally age-related or hereditary, there are lifestyle factors that can contribute to its risk:

  • Smoking – Smoking doubles the risk of AMD
  • Gender – Women usually develop AMD at a younger age than men
  • Race – There are more cases of AMD with Caucasians than with other races
  • Obesity – Research shows that patients with macular degeneration who were overweight had double the risk of developing advanced forms of AMD
  • Blue light – A specific band of blue light can have a negative effect on the retina and adds to the risk of getting AMD. Both the sun and artificial light sources emit harmful blue light

Can Macular Degeneration be prevented?

While there is no cure for AMD, early detection is the best way to prevent vision loss. Along with maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking, research shows that a diet rich in low-fat foods such as dark green, leafy vegetables can aid in the prevention of AMD. Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein/zeaxanthin and zinc are all nutrients that help keep the eyes healthy.

Are there any treatments for Macular Degeneration?

If found early, an eye doctor can treat wet AMD to help slow the rate of central vision loss; they can also provide information on various options for treatment.


For more information on age-related macular degeneration visit AllAboutVision.com.

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