Health A-Z

Macular Degeneration

Clinical Definition

Macular degeneration, or age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is an ophthalmic disease that slowly destroys sharp central vision.  About 90 percent of patients have atrophic AMD, usually beginning when drusen appear in the macula. Others have neovascular or exudative AMD, triggered by abnormal blood vessel growth beneath the macula that can leak fluid and blood into the eye. Loss of vision is more prevalent with wet AMD, but dry AMD can lead to wet AMD.  For atrophic, low-vision aids are used; medications and laser therapy are options for wet AMD treatment.

In Our Own Words

Macular degeneration, or AMD, is the leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 50. AMD affects the macula, the specialized part of the retina that allows us to see fine details such as reading print and recognizing faces and sharp central vision, in general. Most common is the dry or atrophic form, which accounts for up to 90 percent of AMD patients. The macula thins with age and central vision blurs gradually. Drusen, tiny yellow or white deposits under the retina, are a common first sign. Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow beneath the macula, leaking fluid and blood into the eye. Risk factors include genetics, smoking, hypertension (high blood pressure) and other factors.

Those with dry AMD don’t typically lose their central vision, but the dry form can progress to the wet form, and eventually lead to serious vision loss. Low-vision aids (special lenses and devices) can help those with dry AMD. In addition, medications and laser therapy are used for wet AMD.

Symptoms and Side Effects

  • Drusen (tiny deposits in the back of the eye that can be seen by a doctor)
  • Declining vision
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