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ARMD

Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is a disease that blurs the sharp, central vision needed for “straight-ahead” activities such as reading, sewing and driving. ARMD affects the macula, a part of the retina in the eye that allows a person to see detailed, central vision.The Amsler Grid demonstrates the effects of ARMD Macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 60. Since the peripheral retina is not involved, macular degeneration does not lead to complete blindness. ARMD causes no pain, and in some cases advances so slowly that people notice little change in their vision.

Macular degeneration is a frustrating disease for both patients and doctors because there are very few treatment options and no known ways to prevent the disease. Research has not yet uncovered the cause of macular degeneration, but known risk factors include:

  • Age – people between the ages of 64 and 74 have a one-in-four chance of developing the disease, and over the age of 75 the chances increase to one-in-three.
  • Smoking – chances of developing ARMD more than double if a person smokes or has smoked in the past 15 years.
  • Obesity – research suggests a link between obesity and the progression of early and intermittent stages of ARMD to advances stage of ARMD.
  • Race – Caucasians tend to get the disease more than other races.
  • Family history – people with a family history of ARMD have a higher risk of developing the disease.
  • Gender – women appear to be at greater risk than men.

There are two forms of ARMD – dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration. The dry form is much more common – more than 85% of all people with this disease have this type. The wet form is responsible for the majority of severe vision loss associated with macular degeneration, and it’s important to understand that dry macular degeneration can convert into wet macular degeneration. All people who have the wet form have the dry form first. It’s important to schedule regular eye exams at least once a year and contact an ophthalmologist if there is a change in distortion of straight lines or changes in vision.

While there are no treatments for dry macular degeneration, a ten-year National Eye Institute sponsored study has shown that antioxidant vitamins and zinc may reduce the impact and associated vision loss of ARMD. The study found that people with advanced stages of macular degeneration lowered their vision loss by 25% when treated with a high-dose combination of vitamins A, C, E, zinc and copper. It’s important to note that is not a cure and does not reverse vision loss; but may delay and possibly prevent ARMD from progressing to the advanced stage in which vision loss occurs. Wet macular degeneration needs to be treated as soon as it is discovered as waiting will only lead to further vision loss. Wet ARMD can be treated with laser surgery, photo dynamic therapy, and injections into the eye. None of these treatments is a cure, but may slow the rate of vision loss or stop further vision loss.

Sources: www.nei.nih.gov; Novartis Ophthalmics