Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is a chronic and progressive disease that causes a blurring of the central vision of one or both eyes. In this way, ARMD affects a person’s ability to focus their sharpest vision for fine visual tasks, such as driving, reading, watching television and for recognizing faces. The rate of change (and progression) of the condition is different for different people, and also depends on the type of macular degeneration.
Dry age-related macular degeneration is the major category of macular degeneration in that 80-90% of all patients with ARMD have only this type of macular degeneration. This condition is defined by the thinning of the retina and the deposit of tiny clumps of protein called drusen. Over a variable time period, these drusen can cause a slow and progressive loss of vision. To date, there is no cure for dry age-related macular degeneration. The present recommendation is still for patients to take a specific oral vitamin regimen as defined by the AREDS (Age-Related Eye Disease Study) I and AREDS II investigators, as it can reduce the risk of progressing to a more advanced form of macular degeneration.
Wet, or exudative, age-related macular degeneration is a complication of dry age-related macular degeneration, in which the thinning of the retina causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in a layer below the retina. These blood vessels leak, bleed and bring fibrous tissue along with them, and thereby distort the normal anatomy of the macula and can rapidly and profoundly reduce a patient’s vision. Patients afflicted with this condition begin to notice an appreciable reduction in the vision of one (or both) eyes, and/or a distortion of the center of the vision, and/or a growing blind spot in the center of the vision. Prompt medical attention following the development of this change in the eye is crucial to treatment success. When wet age-related macular degeneration is present, it can be treated via intravitreal injections with anti-VEGF medication (injection inside the eye with liquid medication). These treatments halt the process in in most cases and can improve vision in some cases. These injections require repeat treatments for best results, and regular appointments will be necessary in order to determine an appropriate injection schedule, tailored to the patient based on treatment response. Occasionally, laser treatment can be used to photocoagulate (burn) the abnormal blood vessels created by this disease.