2010-02-04 / Features

An Exploration Into Two Main Types Of Age- Related Macular Degeneration

Let’s first traverse the disease of age related macular degeneration (AMD)

A recent study in 2008, conducted by AMD Alliance International, found more than half of respondents had neither heard of AMD or know little about it. This is an astonishing result as AMD is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over the age of 60 and roughly affects 2 million Americans.

AMD occurs when the small central portion of the retina, known as the macula, deteri- orates. This disease, primarily associated with aging, gradually destroys sharp central vision needed for seeing objects clearly, and for common daily tasks, such as reading and driving. In some cases, AMD advances so slowly and without pain that people notice little changes. In others, the disease can progress much faster and lead to loss of vision.

Now let’s navigate through the two main types of AMD

Dry Form - Most patients with AMD have this type. Dry form is characterized by the presence of yellow deposits, called drusen, in the macula. Generally, drusen does not cause changes in vision, but as they grow in size, and increase in number, they may lead to a dimming or distortion of vision, most noticeable when reading. In more advanced stages, there is a thinning of the lightsensitive layer of cells, leading to tissue death. This may lead to blind spots in the center of a patient’s vision or loss of central vision all together.

Wet Form – Although roughly 10 percent of people with AMD develop Wet Form, they make up the majority of people who experience serious vision loss from this disease. The Wet Form is characterized by the growth of abnormal blood vessels underneath the macula. These blood vessels leak blood and fluid into the retina, causing distortion of vision that makes straight lines look wavy, as well as, blind spots and loss of central vision.

Become your own privateer – know the risk factors and symptoms

Risk factors – According to the National Eye Institute the risk factors for AMD include:

Smoking and second-hand smoke.

Obesity.

Race – Caucasians are much more likely to lose vision from AMD than African-Americans.

Gender – Of the more than 2 million Americans age 50 and older that have AMD, more than 1.3 million of those cases are women.

Family history – Those who have immediate family members with AMD are at higher risk.

Age – Although AMD can occur during middle age, studies show people over the age of 60 are at greater risk.

Symptoms – In early stages, AMD may not have symptoms and may be unrecognized until it progresses. Look for the first signs, which are usually distortion of straight lines or blurred vision. Symptoms also include:

Diminished or changed color perception.

Dark, blurry areas or white out appears in the center of vision.

The new world

The South Central Blind Association recommends that anyone over the age of 40 gets a comprehensive eye exam each year. Only through exploration and detection by an eyecare professional can treatment begin that may be able to slow the progression and help save your vision. For more information about AMD contact the South Central Blind Association at 814.623.8214 or the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind at 717-766-2020 or visit www.pablind.org.

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