Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration is one of the main leading cause of vision loss, affecting more than 10 million Americans – more than cataracts and glaucoma combined. At present, Macular Degeneration is considered an incurable eye disease.

What is Macular Degeneration? 

There are two basic types of Macular Degeneration:

  • “Dry”: Approximately 85% to 90% of the cases of Macular Degeneration are the “dry” (atrophic) type.
  • Wet”: Approximately 10-15% of the cases of Macular Degenration are the “wet” (exudative) type.

Though there is also a form named Stargardt disease, which is a type of macular degeneration found in young people, caused by a recessive gene.

What are the stages of Macular Degeneration?

  • Early: Most people do not experience vision loss in the early stage, which is why regular eye exams are important, particularly if you have more than one risk factor. This is diagnosed by the presence of medium-sized yellow deposits beneath the retina.
  • Intermediate: At this stage, there may be some vision loss, but there still may not be noticeable symptoms. A comprehensive eye exam will look for larger drusen (the yellow deposits) and pigment changes in the retina.
  • Late: At this stage, vision loss has become noticeable.

 


Who is at risk for Macular Degeneration?

The biggest risk factor for Macular Degeneration is age. Your risk increases as you age, and the disease is most likely to occur in those 55 and older.

Other individuals at risk include:

  • People with a family history of AMD are at a higher risk.
  • Caucasians are more likely to develop the disease than African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos.
  • Smokers: smoking doubles the risk of AMD.

Risk factors of untreated Macular Degeneration?

When left untreated, macular degeneration can affect both eyes, and vision can worsen to the point of complete blindness. AMD doesn’t hurt, which is one reason people don’t always seek timely treatment. It is extremely important to schedule yearly comprehensive eye exams to catch the symptoms of AMD before they worsen.

Later stages of macular degeneration may cause Charles Bonnet syndrome, also called “phantom vision.” This is a temporary condition that leads patients to see things that aren’t really there and has been reported to induce psychosis.