So, what is Macular Degeneration?
The macula is a pinpoint of tissue in the back of the eye that allows for fine detailed vision. AMD is a breakdown in the metabolic function of the macula. Causes include smoking, exposure to UV light, female gender, obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Genetics play a large part in susceptibility to the disease affecting 70% of cases.
As macular metabolism declines, drusen, which are small deposits containing proteins and fats and are thought to be metabolic by-products, are produced and deposited in the macula. Changes in pigmented macular tissue may also occur and affect vision. The number and size of the drusen, and the amount of pigment change influence the level of vision loss experienced. In the early stages, vision may only be mildly distorted, however in later stages central vision can be completely lost leading to legal blindness.
AMD is divided into two types, ‘dry’ and ‘wet’. Everyone starts with dry AMD with the formation of drusen and / or pigment changes with gradual distortion of vision. In approximately 10% of cases, macular metabolism slows to the point that new blood vessels grow into the tissue and leak. This is wet AMD and if not caught early leads to devastating visual loss.
AMD can be further divided into stages, early, intermediate, and advanced. Early and intermediate AMD are always dry. Advanced AMD can be dry or wet. One in five people with early or intermediate AMD will progress to advanced AMD with vision loss.
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