Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Simulation photograph: normal vision Simulation photograph: age-related macular degeneration

What is age-related macular degeneration (AMD)?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease that affects an individual's central vision. AMD is the most common cause of visual impairment in patients over the age of 55 in industrialized nations. It produces variable symptoms, ranging from no symptoms at all to profound central visual loss. Because only the center of vision is affected, people rarely go blind from this disease. However, AMD can make it difficult of read, drive, or perform other daily activities that require fine, central vision.

AMD occurs when the macula, which is located in the center of the retina and provides us with sight in the center of our field of vision, begins to degenerate. With less of the macula working, central vision - which is necessary for driving, reading, recognizing faces, and performing close-up work - begins to deteriorate.

What are the different types of AMD?

There are two primary types of AMD:

  • Dry Form: This type of AMD is the most common. The atrophic or dry form of AMD is marked by the presence of drusen, pigmentary, or atrophic changes in the center of the retina, i.e. the macula. At this stage, symptoms are typically mild, although some vision loss may occur. Although the dry form is currently untreatable, certain patients may benefit from prophylaxis with vitamins and antioxidants, although such use must be carefully supervised to prevent unwanted side-effects.
  • Wet Form: This type of AMD is less common, but accounts for almost all severe vision loss caused by either type of AMD. A minority but very important group of AMD patients will develop the wet form, marked by the growth of new blood vessels under the macula (choroidal neovascularization) with associated bleeding and leakage with central vision loss. The wet form of AMD requires urgent attention and expert care, because it is treatable in many cases with the intraocular injection of anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) medications such as Lucentis, Avastin, and others in development. Although the injections themselves are easily tolerated and not painful, the decisions regarding initiation of treatment and ongoing maintenance are complex and require care in the evaluation of diagnostic tests such as Fluorescein Angiography and Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT). AMD, while clearly a continuing problem of epidemic proportions, is increasingly a treatable condition as a result of many successful laboratory and clinical investigations.

Why choose Weill Cornell Eye Associates?

The physicians of Weill Cornell Eye Associates are extremely active in the most advanced evaluation and treatment of patients with AMD, as the Department is also highly engaged in the clinical and laboratory investigation of new treatments for both dry and wet forms. The results of these investigations are continually translated into improved visual outcomes for patients with AMD.

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