There are two basic forms of macular degeneration: “Dry” (Atrophic) and “Wet”. The most common form of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is Dry AMD affecting approximately 85 to 90 percent of people with the disorder.
Dry AMD is characterized by the presence of yellow deposits that develop within the macula (drusen) and pigment alterations. The formation of drusen leads to damage of the macula which then causes the macula to lose its function. There are several types of drusen and the presence of drusen is not always an indication of macular degeneration.
The macula is responsible for the sharp, central vision that enables you to read, drive and recognize details such as facial features. The RPE cells affected by dry macular degeneration, support the light detecting photoreceptor cells that are critical for vision. To better understand how photoreceptors work; when we look at something, our photoreceptors detect the light and images and then send this information to the brain allowing us to perceive our surroundings. Although the damage caused by dry ARMD is not as rapid as wet AMD it can lead to vision loss or “legal blindness”.
AMD Risk Factors:
- Age – 55 to 64 (14%), 65 to 75 (20%), 75 plus (up to 40%)
- Race – more common in Caucasians but exists in other races
- Eye Color – more common with blue eyes
- Gender – more common in women
- Genetics – risks are greater if family members have or have had AMD
Existing AMD in One Eye – If you currently have ARMD in one eye, you have a higher chance of developing it in the other eye. And, existing Dry AMD in one eye may predispose you to wet AMD in either eye.
It has been suggested that certain lifestyle habits may slow down the progression or lessen the risks of acquiring AMD:
- Eating lots of vegetables. Green leafy vegetables high in antioxidants are best.
- Smoking cessation is important as smoking is a risk factor.
- Protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays
- Supplements (ask your doctor which vitamins or supplements he or she recommends)
Currently there is no proven cure or treatment for dry ARMD. However, there are a lot of clinical trials and research projects underway that show promise.
Symptoms of Dry AMD:
- Blurriness of printed words
- Difficulty recognizing faces
- Distortion of vision – straight lines may appear wavy or crooked
- Difficulty adapting to low light levels
- Reduced central vision (affecting one or both eyes)
- Decreased brightness or intensity of colors
- The necessity of brighter light when reading or doing close work
- Dark or empty area(s) in the center of vision
If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your optometrist or ophthalmologist immediately for a comprehensive eye examination.