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Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects the macula, a small area in the retina where there is light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. The macula is where fine vision (central) is located, allowing you to read, see street signs, and see small details. The rest of the retina is for peripheral or side vision. As one ages, there may be damage to the retina as part of the normal aging process. This is associated with deposits of tiny pieces of fatty protein called drusen or other changes.
The exact cause of AMD is not fully understood, but it is strongly associated with aging. The risk of getting AMD is about 2% for patients in their 50s and about 30% in patients over the age of 75. AMD affects your central vision, but your side vision is usually not affected.
Possible risk factors of AMD include:
The symptoms of age-related macular degeneration include:
This is the most common form. It occurs when tiny deposits of fatty protein collect under the retina. These deposits are known as drusen. This may be associated with thinning of the macula, leading to gradual damage to your vision. This type of AMD is not associated with leakage of fluid or blood and is also known as non-neovascular AMD. Dry AMD can progress to wet AMD and is usually monitored with an Amsler grid test that can be done at home.
This occurs in about 10% of patients with AMD and is associated with abnormal blood vessels growing underneath the retina. These blood vessels can leak fluid or blood, causing distortion of the central vision. Damage to your vision occurs faster with wet AMD than with dry AMD. If you have wet AMD in one eye, then you are at greater risk for developing a similar problem in the other eye.
If AMD is suspected, your doctor will perform a series of tests using an Amsler grid or fluorescein angiography to detect this serious condition as early as possible.
While there is no cure for macular degeneration, there are several treatment options available to help patients manage this condition and preserve their vision. The best treatment option for each patient depends on the severity and type of the condition, as well as how much, if any, permanent vision loss has occurred.