June 15, 2004
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most
common cause of blindness and visual impairment in the United States,
with more than 1.6 million Americans over age 60 having the advanced
stage of this incurable disease. AMD affects the macula, the part
of the retina that is responsible for central vision and allows
you to see fine details. A person suffering from AMD typically loses
central vision, but maintains peripheral vision. For example, they
would know that there was a clock on the wall, but they would not
be able to tell the time. In this way, AMD has a significant impact
on vision, but usually doesn’t cause total blindness.
There are two types of AMD: dry and wet. Ninety percent of people
with AMD have the dry form, which is caused by the natural aging
and thinning of the tissues of the macula. The dry form develops
slowly, and results in a mild loss of vision.
Ten percent of people with AMD have the wet type; however, this
form is responsible for 90 percent of blindness due to the disease.
In the wet form, abnormal blood vessels develop beneath the retina.
These new blood vessels leak fluid and blood, which often creates
scar tissue and causes a large blind spot to form in the center
of your vision.
Additionally, studies have shown that women over age 75 are twice
as likely as men in the same age range to have early AMD. More than
likely, this is due to a lack of or diminished production of estrogen.
While there is no cure for AMD at this time, nutritional therapies
have been shown to be very promising.
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