Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the disturbance of the macula, the part of the retina that controls how well we can see detail in front of us—as opposed to seeing things in our periphery. AMD is a leading cause of legal blindness in people age 65 and over, and 1.75 million adults in America suffer from its effects.
There are two types of macular degeneration: dry and wet.
Dry macular degeneration is the most common type of AMD. It occurs when yellow deposits called drusen build up in and around the macula and start to break it down. Over time, the drusen will start affecting central vision, causing blurred, speckled, or distorted vision. Over time, dry macular degeneration can also lead to central vision loss.
Wet macular degeneration accounts for only about 10% of those with AMD, but it attacks vision more fiercely than dry macular degeneration does. Blood vessels start to crowd the macula where they shouldn’t be. As these vessels grow, they begin to rapidly damage the macula. Wet macular degeneration can lead to central vision loss in a very short period of time.
Those with AMD usually don’t notice it until damage has already occurred, but a VSP eye doctor can detect early signs of AMD in a routine eye exam. With the eyes dilated, the doctor is able to look for drusen or unusual growth of blood vessels.
If your eye doctor finds signs of wet macular degeneration, he might suggest laser surgery. This procedure is generally painless and quick. The doctor will use a laser to address the excess blood vessels, and patients are usually able to retain their overall sight with the exception of a small, dark spot from the laser.
Unfortunately, there is currently no FDA-approved cure for dry macular degeneration. Eating healthy, exercising consistently, and visiting your VSP eye doctor yearly are the best ways to battle any eye condition, including AMD. Because AMD doesn’t damage peripheral vision, those who have it are usually able to continue their normal activities with the help of low-vision optical devices or other vision aids.
Be sure to make your yearly eye exam appointment so your doctor can check for signs of conditions like AMD and help to prevent damage to your eyes.