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Lowell, MA 01850
Tel 978-452-2100
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Merrimack Eyewear
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Macular Degeneration
Definition Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease associated with aging that gradually destroys sharp, central vision. Central vision is needed for seeing objects clearly and for common daily tasks such as reading and driving. AMD affects the macula, the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail. AMD causes no pain. In some cases, AMD advances so slowly that people notice little change in their vision. In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in both eyes. AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years of age and older. AMD occurs in two forms: wet and dry.
Causes The greatest risk factor is age. Although AMD may occur during middle age, studies show that people over age 60 are clearly at greater risk than other age groups. For instance, a large study found that people in middle-age have about a 2 percent risk of getting AMD, but this risk increased to nearly 30 percent in those over age 75. Other risk factors include:
  • Smoking. Smoking may increase the risk of AMD.
  • Obesity. Research studies suggest a link between obesity and the progression of early and intermediate stage AMD to advanced AMD.
  • Race. Whites are much more likely to lose vision from AMD than African Americans.
  • Family history. Those with immediate family members who have AMD are at a higher risk of developing the disease.
  • Gender. Women appear to be at greater risk than men.
Symptoms Both dry and wet AMD cause no pain.

For dry AMD: the most common early sign is blurred vision. As fewer cells in the macula are able to function, people will see details less clearly in front of them, such as faces or words in a book. Often this blurred vision will go away in brighter light. If the loss of these light-sensing cells becomes great, people may see a small--but growing--blind spot in the middle of their field of vision.

For wet AMD: the classic early symptom is that straight lines appear crooked. This results when fluid from the leaking blood vessels gathers and lifts the macula, distorting vision. A small blind spot may also appear in wet AMD, resulting in loss of one's central vision.

Effect on Vision See our Vision Simulator page on how Glaucoma can affect your vision.
Treatment Wet AMD can be treated with laser surgery, photodynamic therapy, and injections into the eye. None of these treatments is a cure for wet AMD. The disease and loss of vision may progress despite treatment.
More information Feel free to download some materials from our Patient Resource page.
 

The information above is courtesy of the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health.