Macular degeneration, often referred to as AMD or ARMD (for age related macular degeneration), is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in people 65 and older. Vision loss associated with macular degeneration is a growing problem because older people represent an increasingly larger percentage of the general population.
Significant vision loss associated with more advanced forms of AMD increases from fewer than one percent among individuals in their sixties to more than fifteen percent among people in their nineties, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Archives of Ophthalmology estimated that over one million United States residents now have significant symptoms related to age-related macular degeneration, with that number expected to grow to almost three million by the year 2020.
Macular degeneration is a condition of the macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for the sharp, central vision needed to read or drive, where the cells slowly breakdown. Central vision loss may occur because AMD affects the macula.
Macular degeneration generally produces a slow, painless loss of vision. The early signs of vision loss from AMD can include seeing shadowy areas in your central vision or experiencing unusually fuzzy or distorted vision, not to be confused with floaters.
Do a macular degeneration test by viewing a chart of black lines arranged in a graph pattern (Amsler grid) to see if you are having these vision problems.
Macular degeneration can be diagnosed by an eye doctor as either dry or wet. The dry is more common than the wet form, with about 85-90 percent of macular degeneration patients diagnosed with dry AMD. The wet form of the disease generally leads to more serious vision loss.
AMD tends to affect whites and females in particular. The disease also can occur as a side effect of some drugs, and it appears to run in families. Remember, a macular hole is not the same as macular degeneration.
It is important to note that there is no cure for macular degeneration and at this time there is no FDA approved treatment option for the "dry" form of macular degeneration. FDA approved methods of treating wet AMD include injections in the eye, which are intended to stop abnormal blood vessel production, and laser treatments.