Age-related macular degeneration (AMD for short) is the leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 50 in the United States and is estimated to affect more than 10 million Americans. This extremely common eye disease is caused by the deterioration of a part of the eye called the macula, which is round in the center of the retina and is responsible for our central vision. This means that we rely heavily on it for activities such as driving, reading, watching television, seeing fine detail, and even recognizing faces.
Unfortunately, macular degeneration causes irreversible vision loss since, at the present time, there is no cure for the condition. Instead, sufferers are given advice on how to best manage their condition and preserve their vision for as long as possible. How long it will take someone with macular degeneration to lose their vision will depend on the type of macular degeneration that they have.
There are primarily two types of macular degeneration. These are known as ‘wet’ and ‘dry’.
Dry macular degeneration: Dry macular degeneration is the most common variety of the condition by far, accounting for around 90% of cases. In dry macular degeneration, the damage to the retina is caused by the formation of small, yellow deposits under the macula that cause it to progressively thin and dry out.
Wet macular degeneration: Wet macular degeneration is very rare in comparison, accounting for just 5-10% of cases. In this type of macular degeneration, abnormal blood vessels begin to grow under the retina and macula. Since they are abnormal, they can bleed and leak fluid, which causes the macular to lift from its normally flat position, affecting vision. Although less common, wet macular degeneration develops quicker, causing the patient’s sight to change more rapidly.
Dry macular degeneration develops much more slowly than the wet variety. This means that it can take many months or years for your vision to become affected. Patients rarely become totally blind, but their vision does become impaired enough to significantly affect their quality of life. It’s also important to note that in a percentage of cases, patients who initially started out with dry macular degeneration can go on to develop the wet variety later on.
Unfortunately, there is no real way to slow the progression of dry macular degeneration. Instead, treatment is based on helping maximize the vision that patients do have by using visual aids such as prescription lenses, magnifying glasses, better lighting, and more.
If you have been diagnosed with wet macular degeneration, you may be able to have treatment to stop any more abnormal blood vessels from forming. This is usually in the form of light treatment called photodynamic therapy, or medication administered via injection known as anti-VGEF injections. Your eye doctor will talk to you about what you can expect.
If you have any questions about macular degeneration, or if you have any concerns about your vision, get in touch with our knowledgeable optical team in San Bernardino, California. You can contact Eye Care Associates in San Bernardino at (909) 316-2100 today.