The retina is the wallpaper on the inside back of the eye which sends focused images to the brain. The macula is the center part of the retina and is devoted to straight-ahead vision. We all use our maculas when we read, look at faces, drive, or direct our attention to any task directly in front of us. In contrast, the non-macula parts of the retina are used for more peripheral vision.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease that progressively damages the macula and causes you to lose your central vision. It is the most common cause of blindness among adults in the United States. Risk factors for AMD include age, obesity, smoking, and a family history of AMD.
There are two types of macular degeneration: dry and wet. Dry AMD is the more common form of the disease, and it leads to a slow gradual loss of central vision. Besides a vitamin supplement (called AREDS2) which may slow the rate of vision loss, science has not yet discovered a way of treating dry AMD. Still, patients with dry AMD must regularly use an Amsler grid to watch for signs of wet AMD, which must be treated promptly to avoid additional vision loss.
Wet AMD is the less common but more severe form of the disease. In this situation, blood vessels leak fluid and blood into the macula, which causes much faster and more severe vision loss. Wet AMD can be treated with laser procedures and injections into the eye, with the goal of transforming the wet AMD back to dry AMD. However, there is no cure for either type of macular degeneration.
All adults over the age of 65 should have an annual eye examination to screen for macular degeneration. If you have a family history of AMD, you should start getting screened at age 50. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of the eye doctors at New England Vision. We proudly serve patients from throughout Vermont, northern New York, and western New Hampshire.
Visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeSmart® website to learn more about Macular Degeneration.