Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness among Americans over the age of 65. It is a condition marked by deterioration of the macula, the portion of the retina responsible for central, sharp vision. The macula is a layer of tissue located in the center of the retina.
More than 1.75 million Americans suffer from AMD. By the year 2020, it is estimated that this figure will reach 3 million.
AMD develops as your eye ages. The disorder first develops in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), a layer of cells behind the retina near the back wall of the eye.
Your macula is made up of millions of light-sensitive cells called rods and cones. There are two segments to rods and cones. The inner segment produces proteins that respond to light, while the outer segment stores and uses these proteins.
As the outer segment proteins absorb light, they wear out and are removed as waste. The inner segments are responsible for replacing the degraded outer segments with fresh segments. The RPE cells are responsible for removing used outer segments.
Over time, your RPE cells will start to degenerate, reducing their ability to remove outer segment waste. This causes yellow, fat-like deposits to form under the rods and cones. This ultimately leads to a deterioration of your vision.
Generally, AMD will result in a gradual and painless loss of vision. The symptoms of AMD include:
Age-related macular degeneration can be diagnosed by the following tests:
There is currently no known treatment that will reverse the effects of age-related macular degeneration. However, there are certain treatments that can slow its progression.
In its early stages, AMD can be treated with high doses of vitamin supplements, including:
In more advanced stages of AMD, certain drugs can be used to prevent the formation of abnormal blood vessels under the macula which are responsible for rapid vision deterioration. These drugs include:
It is important to go to your ophthalmologist for regular macular degeneration screenings after age 45. Please contact an eye doctor near you today to schedule an eye exam.