The leading loss of vision and blindness in Americans 65 and older is a condition called Macular Degeneration or AMD or ARMD (age-related macular degeneration). This is getting to be a growing problem as the population of elderly people is growing and people are living longer. It is now estimated that as of 2004 there were 1.74 million U.S. residents that are suffering from some form of symptoms associated with age-related macular degeneration.
Macular degeneration is a condition where the macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for sharp, clear central vision, degenerates.
There are two forms of macular degeneration. They are non-neovascular, dry and neovascular, wet. The dry form of AMD is more common than the wet, although the wet form can lead to a more serious vision loss.
AMD seems to affect whites and females the most. While it appears to occur as a result of the side affect of some drugs, it does tend to run in families.
Macular degeneration produces a slow or sometimes sudden and painless loss of sight. In the early stages a person can see shadowy areas in the field of vision or fuzzy and distorted vision.
A eye doctor can detect the early signs of macular degeneration before the person themselves notice it. This early detection is done by a retinal examination. If your doctor suspects you are suffering the early stages of macular degeneration a quick test can be made using a Amsler grid which is a chart of black lines arranged in a graph pattern. If you have a distortion or blurring of your vision a fluorescein angiography to examine the blood vessels surrounding the macula may be ordered.
The causes for macular degeneration are not known. The dry type of AMD my be the results of the aging and thinning of the macular tissues, the depositing of pigments in the macula or a combination of the two. Wet macular degeneration has a condition where new blood vessels grow underneath the retina and leak blood and fluid. This leak causes the retinal cells to die and in turn will create blind spots in the central vision.
You could also be at risk of macular degeneration if you have a family member with AMD, smoking, high blood pressure, obesity and farsightedness.
There currently is no cure for macular degeneration but there are some treatments that can delay it's progression or even improve vision.
If you suspect you my be seeing symptoms of macular degeneration please see your eye care provider for proper evaluation and treatment.