Low Vision Awareness Month: What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, nearly three million Americans suffer from low vision, a visual impairment that cannot be corrected through medical treatments such as surgery, medication, or specialized eyewear. Low vision is most common among people aged 40 years and older.

One of the most common causes of low vision (and the leading cause of vision loss in people aged 50 and older) is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which impairs a person’s central vision and interferes with tasks such as reading or driving. Your risk of developing this condition increases as you age, but this risk may be higher for people who have a family history of AMD, are Caucasian, or smoke.

This condition can occur as either “dry” (also known as “atrophic”) AMD or “wet” (also known as “advanced neovascular”) AMD. The majority of AMD cases involve dry AMD, which occurs in three stages: early, intermediate, and late.

Early dry AMD usually doesn’t involve any obvious symptoms, but during the intermediate stage, you may experience mild blurry vision or difficulties seeing in low lighting. Late AMD may cause symptoms such as straight lines appearing crooked, increased blurry vision, greater difficulty seeing in low lighting, colors appearing less bright, and visual blank spots.

There are no specific treatments available for the early stage of dry AMD, but during its intermediate and late stages, special dietary supplements may be able to slow or halt the progression of the disease. These supplements contain:

  • Vitamins C (500 milligrams)
  • Vitamin E (400 International Units)
  • Copper (2 milligrams)
  • Zinc (80 milligrams)
  • Beta-carotene
  • Lutein (10 milligrams)
  • Zeaxanthin (2 milligrams)

Wet AMD is a form of late-stage AMD that progresses quickly as abnormal blood vessels grow in the back of the eye, damaging the macula. It always begins as dry AMD and can occur during any stage of the condition. Unlike late-stage dry AMD, however, it can be treated through anti–vascular endothelial growth factor drugs or through photodynamic therapy (PDT), which combines injectable medications with laser treatments.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of dry or wet AMD, schedule an appointment at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Ophthalmology Center now by calling (718) 206-5900.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.