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Macular Degeneration

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in people age 65 and older in the United States. It is an eye disease that affects the macula, which is part of the retina, and leads to central vision loss.

Wet and Dry Forms

Macular degeneration is diagnosed as either dry or wet. Dry macular degeneration constitutes about 90% of ARMD patients. The wet form refers to patients with bleeding, abnormal vessel growth in the macula.

Symptoms and Signs

The symptoms of ARMD generally produce a slow, painless loss of vision. In rare cases, the wet form can cause a sudden loss of vision. Early signs of ARMD include a thinning of the macula tissue, pigment clumping, and drusen. An Amsler grid can be used to help track the progression of ARMD.

Causes

Besides aging, ARMD appears to be hereditary. Other risk factors include smoking, hypertension, obesity, and some medications.

Treatment

A National Eye Institute study (AREDS) found that nutritional supplements, including beta carotene (Vitamin A), Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and zinc, may help to reduce the progression of ARMD. The study showed that the progression was reduced by 25%. Other recent studies are evaluating the benefits of lutein, Zeaxanthin, and fish oil (Omega-3 fatty acid).

For wet ARMD, newer treatments include Photodynamic Therapy, Macugen, Avastin, and Lucentis. The use of these treatments is determined by a retinal specialist.