One thing that is constant from birth is aging. While we take in the sights and walk the journey through life, our bodies endure some wear and tear over the years. Unfortunately, this opens the door for older people to face some health challenges, including eye diseases. One eye condition that is common among seniors is age-related macular degeneration.
Among diseases that lead to irreversible blindness in the United States, none is more prevalent than AMD. It affects about 10 million Americans, and their situation is compounded by the lack of treatment to cure it. However, rest assured that you can take steps to reduce the risk of the condition and manage it over the course of your life.
AMD is an eye condition that affects the layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye, the retina. It affects only the central part of the retina, the macula, which is responsible for central vision. It leads to the deterioration of the photosensitive cells in this area, resulting in irreversible loss of sight.
Note that the vision loss only affects the central vision. However, without central vision, you cannot read, recognize faces, drive, or do detailed work. Still, people with AMD usually have their peripheral vision intact.
The condition comes in two primary forms, wet (exudative) and dry (atrophic) AMD.
Wet or Exudative AMD
This is the less common form of the condition and the more severe of the two. It affects between 10 to 15% of all AMD cases. With this condition, immediate medical attention is crucial. Otherwise, it could cost you your vision.
Wet AMD is characterized by the development of atypical blood vessels under the macula. The abnormal vessels begin to leak blood, lipids, and protein into the macula. They may also cause scarring on the tissues, eventually leading to the deterioration of the macula. Without treatment, patients with the condition experience rapid and permanent vision loss. Treatment helps manage the extent of vision loss but may not prevent it entirely.
Dry or Atrophic AMD
This is the more widespread form of the condition and is usually less severe than the wet form. Unlike the exudative form, this form does not involve the growth of abnormal blood vessels or fluids leaking. Instead, it is caused by protein waste deposits collecting under the macula. These protein and lipoid deposits are called drusen and are yellow.
Almost everyone over 50 has some drusen on their retina, but with atrophic AMD, the drusen multiply significantly. They cause the atrophy of the macula layer, eventually leading to vision loss. The deterioration happens gradually over time, with the symptoms less severe.
Age is the greatest risk factor for developing either condition. It often affects people over 50 years old due to the natural wear and tear of the visual system.
If you have ancestors with the condition, you will likely develop it later in life. If you have a family history of the disease, it is recommended to have eye exams once you turn 50.
For more on wet and dry age-related macular degeneration, contact San Marcos Vision Center at our office in San Marcos, Texas. Call (512) 890-0660 to book an appointment today.