What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD)?
Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over age 60. It occurs when the macula, the small central portion of the retina, deteriorates. The retina is the light-sensitive nerve tissue at the back of the eye. The macula is responsible for your sharp, central vision allowing you to do such things as read, write, drive, cook and see faces. Although it is almost never a totally blinding disease, it can be a source of significant vision loss and there is no eye pain associated with ARMD.
In its early stages ARMD may not have any symptoms and may go unrecognized until it progresses or affects both eyes. The first sign of ARMD is usually a dim, blurry spot in the middle of your vision. This spot may get larger or darker over time.
There are two types of Age-Related Macular Degeneration:
Dry Form. The dry form of ARMD is more common and is more slowly progressive in causing vision loss. It is characterized by yellow deposits in the macula, called drusen. A few drusen may not cause vision changes; however as they increase in size and number, they lead to a dimming and distortion of vision most noticeably when reading. In more advanced stages of dry macular degeneration, there is also thinning of the light-sensitive layer of cells in the macula leading to blind spots in the center of your vision. In the advanced stages patients lose central vision. The dry form of ARMD can lead to the wet form.
Wet Form. The wet form of ARMD is characterized by the growth of abnormal blood vessels from the choroid underneath the macula. The choroid is the layer of blood vessels between the retina and the sclera which is the protective outer layer of the eye. The growth of these abnormal blood vessels is called choroidal neovascularization. These blood vessels leak blood and fluid into the retina, causing distortion of vision making straight lines look wavy, as well as blind spots and loss of central vision. These abnormal blood vessels eventually scar, leading to permanent central vision loss. Although only about 10% of people with ARMD develop the wet form, they make up the majority of serious vision loss from the disease.
Age-related macular degeneration may be hereditary. If someone in your family has or has had the disease you may be at higher risk for developing it. The greatest risk factor for developing ARMD is age. We do not know the cause of ARMD but we do know there are other risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, being female, being light-skinned and having light eye color for the development of ARMD. Your lifestyle can play a role in reducing your risk. Eat a healthy diet high in green leafy vegetables and fish, no smoking, maintain normal weight and blood pressure levels and perform regular moderate exercise.
Age-related macular degeneration can be detected during a routine eye exam with Dr. Greenberg.
Dr. Greenberg may ask you to look at an Amsler grid – a pattern of straight lines that resemble a checkerboard. Some of the straight lines may appear wavy to you, or you may notice some of the lines are missing. These can be signs of ARMD. Early detection through an eye exam with Dr. Greenberg is very important because there are treatments that can delay or reduce the severity of the disease. To schedule an eye exam please call (248) 649-2820.