What is Macular Degeneration?
The human retina is made up of layers of
cells that line the entire inside of the globe
of the eye. The macula is the most sensitive part of the
retina, located in the center. The macula is
about the size of the head of a straight pin,
and contains millions of light-sensing cells
that provide sharp, detailed,
“straight-ahead” central vision.
When light strikes the back of the eye, the
cells of the macula and the rest of the retina
send electrical signals to the brain through the
optic nerve. The brain translates the
electrical signals into the images we see. When
macula cells are damaged or destroyed, the
images received by the brain are distorted.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a
progressive eye condition affecting as many as
15 million Americans and millions more around
the world. There is no cure for AMD which
destroys the clear central vision necessary
for reading, driving, identifying faces,
watching television, safely navigating stairs
and performing other daily tasks we take for
granted. It can make it more difficult to see
contrast and can change the way color is seen.
Peripheral vision may not be affected, and it
is possible to see “out of the corner of
AMD is the number one cause of severe vision
loss and legal blindness in adults over 60 in
the U.S. It escalates with age. More than one
senior in three over the age of 75 is likely
to develop signs of AMD, with over 200,000 new
cases diagnosed every year.
There are two types of AMD – atrophic or
“dry AMD" and
neovascular or “wet AMD”. All AMD starts in the dry form.
There are treatments available for wet AMD to
stop disease progression, and research is
underway to find an effective treatment to
limit the vision loss that occurs with dry
AMD. Even with vision loss resulting from AMD,
training and special devices can promote
independence and a return to favorite
How did I get AMD?
There are some things you can do to reduce
the risk of AMD. Research with large populations around the
world has revealed a list of lifestyle factors
that can be changed. Other things that
contribute to AMD include your family history
and age. While you can’t control
these risk factors, it’s important to know
Things You Can’t Change
Age – AMD signs are
present in about 14% of people 55–64; 20% of
those age 65–75; and up to 40% of individuals
over age 75.
Gender – AMD is more
common in women than in men.
Race – AMD is more
common in Caucasians than other races, but it
exists in every ethnicity.
Eye Color – AMD is more
common in people with blue eyes.
AMD in One Eye – If you
have AMD in one eye, your chance of developing
it in the other eye is higher. Dry AMD in one
eye may predispose you to wet AMD in the other
Genetics – If others in
your family have AMD, you have a greater risk
of developing it.
Risk Factors You Can Change
Smoking – Smoking
increases your risk, especially if AMD runs in
Diet – A poor diet, low
in antioxidants and high in saturated fats and
processed foods may increase your risk of
Obesity – People who are
very overweight have a higher risk of AMD.
Exercise – A sedentary
lifestyle contributes to AMD.
Cholesterol – High
cholesterol is bad for your eyes and your
Blood Pressure – High
blood pressure may be involved in AMD.
Sun Exposure –
Ultraviolet and blue light from the sun and
electronics can damage the retina.
• Wet AMD •