What is Age-related Macular Degeneration?
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) usually occurs in people over the age of 60. It is an acquired condition in which degenerative changes impact the central portion of the retina, the macula. There are two types of macular degeneration: dry (nonexudative) macular degeneration and wet (exudative) macular degeneration. Symptoms that may be indicative of underlying macular degeneration may include blind spots, difficulty with reading, distortion, and challenges with adjusting from brightly lit to dimly lit environments.
Possible risk factors for AMD development may include genetics (i.e. family history), high fat diet, obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, excessive exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun, and cigarette smoking.
AMD rarely causes complete blindness, though it can severely compromise one’s level of visual function. Early detection through dilated examinations is critical management of AMD.
Dry Age-related Macular Degeneration
Dry age-related macular degeneration is the more common of the two forms of the disease, accounting for approximately 80% of cases. The condition is characterized by decreased sensitivity and oftentimes decreased number of the retinal cells in the macula. One of the hallmark features of dry AMD is the presence of drusen, age-related deposits underneath the retina which can contribute to compromising overlying retinal function. Vision loss in dry AMD is usually gradual, and it may range from mild to severe.
Wet Age-related Macular Degeneration
The presence of blood and/or fluid distinguishes wet age-related macular degeneration from dry age-related macular degeneration. Bleeding and/or fluid in the retina come from abnormal blood vessels growing from the vascular layer underneath the retina into the space underneath the retina. The transformation from dry to wet macular degeneration can occur suddenly and lead to severe visual compromise if treatment is delayed. One will have a better visual outcome if detection and treatment is timely. Treatment for wet AMD typically involves intravitreal injections of medications that stop growth of abnormal choroidal blood vessels. Delivery of potent medications into the eye is critical to stabilizing or, in some cases reversing, the damage caused by these abnormal blood vessels.
Eye Vitamins for Macular Degeneration
It is recommended to have an eye examination to determine whether you should be taking oral supplements for your retina. AREDS2 vitamins are indicated for patients with intermediate risk dry age-related macular degeneration; this determination is made at the time of a dilated fundus examination. The AREDS2 formulation contains 500 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU vitamin E, 80 mg zinc, 2 mg copper, 10 mg lutein, and 2 mg zeaxanthin. The vitamins have been demonstrated to reduce the risk of progression to advanced AMD by 25% at five years.
Taking AREDS vitamins has not been demonstrated to reduce one’s likelihood of developing AMD, thus it is not appropriate to take them preventatively without having a dilated fundus examination.
Call 301-657-5700 to schedule an appointment with a macular degeneration specialist at Washington Eye Physicians and Surgeons. Learn more about macular degeneration at ASRS.org.