Age-related macular degeneration, often called AMD or ARMD, is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness among Americans age 65 and older. AMD is degeneration of the macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for the sharp, central vision needed to read or drive.
Age-related macular degeneration usually produces a slow, painless loss of vision. In rare cases, however, vision loss can be sudden. Early signs of vision loss from AMD include shadowy areas in your central vision or unusually fuzzy or distorted vision.
There is as of yet no outright cure for age-related macular degeneration, but some treatments may delay its progression or even improve vision. The type of treatment for macular degeneration depends 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.
Macular degeneration can make it difficult or impossible to read or recognize faces, although enough peripheral vision remains to allow other activities of daily life. The dry form of advanced AMD results from atrophy of the retinal pigment epithelial layer below the retina, which causes vision loss due to the damage of photoreceptors also known as rods and cones in the central part of the eye.
The wet form of advanced AMD causes vision loss due to abnormal blood vessel growth ultimately leading to blood and protein leakage below the macula. Bleeding, leaking and scarring from these blood vessels eventually causes irreversible damage to the photoreceptors and rapid vision loss if left untreated. Fortunately only about ten percent of patients suffering from macular degeneration have the “wet” type.
Many researchers and eye care practitioners believe that certain nutrients — zinc, lutein, Zeaxanthin and vitamins A, C and E — help lower the risk for AMD or slow down the progression of dry macular degeneration.