Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in the United States, affecting nearly 11 million people. Located in the retina, macular degeneration affects the macula, which is responsible for your central, sharp vision. As the disease progresses, the ability to see things clearly worsens. Many older patients develop macular degeneration as part of the natural aging process of the body. However, some individuals are more prone to macular degeneration, including Caucasians, females, fair-skinned and blue-eyed patients, smokers and those with a family history containing AMD.

Typically, macular degeneration affects one eye more than the other. The onset of macular degeneration occurs when drusen deposits form underneath the retina. This deposit formation is termed “dry” macular degeneration. In more severe cases, new but very thin blood vessels form to supply retina nutrients and oxygen to the areas of the eye drusen suffocates. Due to their weakness, these blood vessels will leak blood behind the retina, leading to a more visually disabling form of the disease, termed “wet” macular degeneration. Approximately 10% of AMD patients have the “wet” form of macular degeneration.

Researchers are trying to determine why some people are more susceptible to drusen deposit formation than others so treatments and preventative medicine can be developed. One possible solution may be the use of various injectable medications. Ideally injected into the retina, eye care doctors are hoping future treatments will slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration.

In many cases, age-related macular degeneration patients have useful vision and minimal impact on their eyesight. However, those with more progressed forms of the disease have a difficult time even reading the newspaper or looking at pictures. There are eye care doctors called low vision specialists that provide low vision exams which can suggest the utilization of various low vision devices. Patients who undergo low vision exams are more likely to have success in using their remaining vision. Often times, there are state and local organizations that assist blind and visually impaired patients.

Unfortunately, nothing can prevent age-related macular degeneration. Some things can slow down the disease’s progression. AMD patients can:

  • Stop smoking
  • Wear sunglasses that filter both UVA and UVB light for proper protection outdoors
  • Eat a healthy diet that includes green leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli, kale, collard greens, etc)
  • Take a daily multivitamin
  • Undergo an annual exam to assess their macular degeneration status.

If you have moderate to severe macular degeneration and your eye care doctor feels you may develop “wet” macular degeneration, he or she may recommend a specific AREDS2-formulated eye vitamin that contains lutein, zeazanthine and fish oil to help reduce further damage. Many times, people are unaware they have macular degeneration due to the absence of visual symptoms. This is the chief reason why visiting your eye care doctor every year for an annual examination is of the utmost importance. By catching age-related macular degeneration in its early stages, people can practice better eye care practices and likely slow progression.