Age-related macular degeneration — also called macular degeneration, AMD or ARMD — is deterioration of the macula, which is the small central area of the retina of the eye that controls visual acuity.
The health of the macula determines our ability to read, recognize faces, drive, watch television, use a computer, and perform any other visual task that requires us to see fine detail.
According to a recent study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 6.5 percent of Americans age 40 and older have some degree of macular degeneration. Other research suggests there were 9.1 million cases of early AMD in the U.S. in 2010 and this number is expected to increase to 17.8 million by the year 2050.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among older Americans, and due to the aging of the U.S. population, the number of people affected by AMD is expected to increase significantly in the years ahead.
There is as yet no outright cure for age-related macular degeneration, but some treatments may delay its progression or even improve vision.
Treatments for macular degeneration depend on whether the disease is in its early-stage, dry form or in the more advanced, wet form that can lead to serious vision loss. No FDA-approved treatments exist yet for dry macular degeneration, although nutritional intervention may help prevent its progression to the wet form.
Dry macular degeneration
Dry macular degeneration is the most common type of the disease. Around 80% of patients with macular degeneration have the dry form. Dry macular degeneration occurs as you age. Your macula becomes thin, and protein deposits called drusen build up on your retina.
Wet macular degeneration
Wet macular degeneration is less common but more dangerous. It develops when abnormal blood vessels in your eyes leak blood and other fluids, which then scar your retina. Wet macular degeneration is linked to diabetes and high blood pressure.