Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss and legal blindness in people over 50 years of age. The disease is more common is Caucasian patients. The major risk factors are age, family history, and smoking. There are two types of macular degeneration: dry and wet.
Dry AMD occurs first and results in a gradual loss of cells that are important for vision. This is analogous to losing hearing or hair with age. Most patients diagnosed with macular degeneration have a dry form. Loss of vision with dry AMD is usually gradual, although advanced stages of the disease can be severe.
Wet AMD may follow the dry type, and is the more advanced form of the disease. In the wet type, abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the retina. These vessels leak blood or fluid that cause blurred or distorted vision. Without treatment, vision loss may be quick, severe, and irreversible.
Treatment of dry AMD is often with oral vitamins (AREDS) and fish oil supplements which do not require a prescription. These vitamins have been shown to reduce the progression of the disease. It is also important for the patient to monitor his/her vision regularly, and to report any sudden changes for prompt evaluation.
Treatment of wet AMD is often with injections into the eye of the medications that temporarily decrease the leakage and bleeding from the abnormal blood vessels. The medication lasts for about one month in the eye, and therefore repeated injections are necessary. The number of injections that are required varies from patient to patient. Laser is also used in select cases.