Age-related Macular Degeneration or AMD is the leading cause of irreversible visual loss in people over the age of 65 in the US. Macular degeneration is a disease of the tiny central part of the retina which is responsible for fine detail vision and for color perception. It usually affects both eyes, but often starts in one eye.
Age-related macular degeneration occurs when the arteries that nourish the retina harden. Deprived of nutrients, the retinal tissues begin to weaken and die, causing vision loss. Patients may experience blurriness, grey or distorted areas, and possibly a blind spot in the center of their vision.
Macular degeneration doesn’t cause total blindness because it doesn’t affect the peripheral vision. Possible risk factors include genetics, age, diet, smoking and sunlight exposure. Regular eye exams are highly recommended to detect macular degeneration early and prevent permanent vision loss.
There is no exact cure for age-related macular degeneration. There are some treatments that may slow down the progression or even improve vision.
The type of treatment for the disease depends on whether it is in the early stage, dry form or in the more advanced, wet form that can lead to serious vision loss. Many believe that certain nutrients – zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamins A,C and E – can help slow down the progression of dry macular degeneration. In addition, high levels of antioxidants and zinc have shown promising results. For the wet and more serious form, treatments aimed at stopping abnormal blood vessel growth include FDA-approved drugs of Lucentis, Macugen and Visudyne used with Photodynamic Therapy or PDT.