Macular Degeneration (AMD)

What is Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is an eye disease that irreversibly damages the macula, an area of the retina responsible for seeing straight ahead and fine details. Central vision is gradually lost while color and peripheral vision may remain clear.

The eye disease is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) because it progresses gradually with aging and affects more people later in life.

There are usually no early signs of macular degeneration developing, and no discernible changes to vision at first. That is why routine eye exams are critical for protecting your sight proactively instead of waiting to have eye checkups when symptoms occur.

Symptoms of Macular Degeneration

Later stage signs of AMD include:

  • Details are out of focus
  • Blind spot in center of vision
  • Difficulty reading without magnification or more light
  • Faces appear blurry
  • Objects appear distorted or abnormal in some way

Wet or Dry? Two Forms of Macular Degeneration

Wet Macular Degeneration

Wet macular degeneration is much less common than dry MD and can lead to more serious and/or sudden vision loss. It occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina in the area of the macula. These can distort and blur vision or in some cases cause a quick and extreme loss of central vision. Only 10-15% of MD cases are wet form.

Dry Macular Degeneration

The majority of cases of macular degeneration are the dry type. The tissues of the macula deteriorate and yellow deposits called “drusen” form, eventually obscuring vision.  Dry macular degeneration progresses very slowly.

Risks of Developing Macular Degeneration

The causes of macular degeneration are unknown but there are factors that increase the risk of developing it.


Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among the elderly. In the US, 12.5% of people over 60 years old are affected by the disease and a third of the population over 75 years old.

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It is projected that the number of people living with macular degeneration globally will reach 196 million by 2020 and increase to 288 million by 2040.

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Gender, Race, Heredity and Other Factors

Women are slightly more likely to develop AMD than males, and Caucasians are at a higher risk than African Americans.

Research studies have suggested there is a genetic component to the eye disease, identifying the presence of a variant of a gene known as complement factor H (CFH), a gene deficiency associated with nearly half of all potentially blinding cases of macular degeneration.

Many other possible factors include smoking, long-term sun exposure, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, inactivity, hypertension, nutritional deficiencies, certain medications, infection, and head injury.

Diagnosing Macular Degeneration

The first step for screening for macular degeneration is as easy as annual comprehensive eye exams. An optometrist will thoroughly examine the retina for signs of any changes to the macula that would warrant further testing. A variety of tools and tests can reveal signs of diagnose MD, including the Amsler Grid, Optical Coherence Tomography, and angiography for potential cases to be looked at closer.

Treatment for Macular Degeneration

The majority of wet macular degeneration cases and virtually all dry macular degeneration cases are not completely curable. Changes in diet and lifestyle may help delay vision loss. Nutrition and supplements are often recommended to potentially reduce or even stop altogether any further macula deterioration.

Research suggests that a diet high in lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoid antioxidants naturally occurring in the macula, may lower the risk of developing AMD. Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale and collard greens contain high amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin. There are also supplements with these antioxidants.

Low Vision Aids

Low vision therapy devices can help people affected by AMD. There are different kinds of magnification tools and digitally-enlarging aids as well many products such as large print books, audio media, talking clocks and other items with audible features designed to assist those with impaired vision.

Laser Treatments for Wet Macular Degeneration

Laser treatment may be possible in rare cases of wet macular degeneration if the abnormal blood vessels are far enough away from the macula. A laser light can be used to eradicate the leaking blood vessels under the retina. This painless procedure can slow or even stop the progression of the eye disease, but usually any vision already lost is not regained.

For some cases of wet MD, photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a relatively new form of treatment that could delay vision loss. PDT uses medicine that reacts to certain laser light to clot and seal off the abnormal, leaking blood vessels. However, effects are often short-term as vessels are prone to burst again.

For regular AMD screening and more eye health tests, visit Dr. William Beegle and his associates in Eatontown for your next eye care appointment.

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