What is Macular Degeneration?

symptoms of macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration affects one in ten people aged over 65 and is the leading cause of blindness among older persons. It is a chronic condition that will probably progress slowly over 5-10 years to severe vision loss if left untreated. If you find the symptoms of macular degeneration early, it can be slowed down or stopped in its tracks.

In the advanced stages of age-related macular degeneration, the light sensitive cells in the retina at the back of your eye become damaged or die. This damages your central vision making it difficult to read, drive, recognize faces and see objects clearly.

The two forms of age-related macular degeneration are the atrophic form (“dry”) and the neovascular (“wet”) form. The atrophic type is more common – in fact about 90 percent of all people with macular degeneration have this variety, although it is less severe than the neovascular type.

If detected early, advanced dry age-related macular degeneration can be slowed or even halted in its tracks. The reason for this is that the atrophic form of AMD has a slower natural rate of progression than the neovascular type. With regular monitoring and treatment, it is possible to delay loss of vision by about 5 years until 75% of people have lost their vision. While the atrophic form of AMD cannot be cured, it can be managed effectively with treatments to slow down or stop its progression.

Around half of all people with dry AMD develop “dry” macular degeneration and about 15 percent evolve into “wet” macular degeneration,” where abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the retina.

In the early stage of wet AMD, physicians can use nutritional supplements or drugs to control abnormal blood vessel growth. Unfortunately, once bleeding under the retina has occurred and scar tissue develops, there is no treatment available that can restore vision.