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Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration or Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is a disease of the retina in which the center or "bulls eye" of the retina is damaged. Macular Degeneration is a leading cause of blindness among those aged 55 and older and affects over 10 million patients in the United States today. The Macula is responsible for our reading vision, driving vision, color vision, and our ability to see faces. As we age, the tissue under the retina, the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), may degenerate just as our hair turns gray or our bones weaken. This degeneration of the retinal pigment epithelium is often the first step that can lead to either Dry Macular Degeneration of Wet Macular Degeneration.

Dry Macular Degeneration

Dry macular degeneration, macular degeneration, ARMD, Drusen

Dry Macular Degeneration, also called Atrophic Macular Degeneration, is the most common type of Age Related Macular Degeneration. Dry Macular Degeneration makes up approximately 85-90% of cases of Macular Degeneration.  If you have Dry Macular Degeneration, during the examination of your Retina, your eye doctor will see small, yellow colored deposits between the retinal layers, which are called Drusen.  Dry Macular Degeneration results in a slow, gradual progressive “dimming” of your central vision. 

Many people 50 years of age or older begin to display some Drusen as they age.  Drusen are not a direct problem for your vision unless they are large or confluent.  If you have Drusen, your eye doctor may ask you to schedule eye examinations more frequently in order to monitor them, as there is some possibility that Dry Macular Degeneration will progress to Wet Macular Degeneration over a period of time.  Thus people with Dry Macular Degeneration, even without any noticeable change in vision, need to be followed closely as Wet Macular Degeneration has far more serious consequences for vision loss. 

Wet Macular Degeneration

wet macular degeneration, macular degeneration, ARMD

Wet Macular Degeneration is far more likely to cause serious vision loss than Dry Macular Degeneration.  Fortunately, it only accounts for about 10-15% of cases of Macular Degeneration.  Wet Macular Degeneration is characterized by an abnormal growth of new blood vessel under the retina.  These new blood vessels are called “neovascularization”. Neovascularization is not made up of “normal” blood vessels in that they are unusually weak in their structure.  In fact, they are quite fragile and are prone to be leaky and can easily break and bleed.  If leakage occurs, the Macula may actually begin to swell.  If the new blood vessels break and bleeding occurs, it can result in scarring as it heals.  Scarring of the Macula can cause a sudden, rapid and severe loss of central vision, which is irreversible.

While Macular Degeneration is generally regarded as incurable, with early detection, diagnosis there are a number of treatments for Macular Degeneration that make it possible to preserve vision and prevent catastrophic vision loss.

Macular Degeneration Treatments
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updated 3/2/11