Types of Macular Degeneration

About Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a degenerative eye condition in which the central portion of the retina, called the macula, deteriorates over time. There are two main types of Age Related Macular Degeneration: “Dry Macular Degeneration” and “Wet Macular Degeneration” each of which can cause loss of central vision to differing degrees and at different rates. Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of legal blindness for those aged 55 and older in the United States, affecting more than 10 million Americans in some fashion and recent national data indicates that more than 2 million people over the age of 50 are affected by late AMD. Although AMD is incurable, with early detection and diagnosis there are a number of treatment options that have proven to prevent further vision loss from the disease and in many cases may actually help recover some lost vision.

Vision Loss from Age Related Macular Degeneration

As the name implies, Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) only affects the macula which is the area of the retina responsible for providing central vision. Central vision is the sharpest or clearest area of your vision and is required for the precise vision needed for activities such as seeing fine detail of faces, reading and recognizing colors as well as the central or “straight ahead” vision necessary for driving. The visual effects of macular degeneration can be relatively minimal with a mild “dimming” or “distortion” of your central vision, or very profound resulting in a complete loss of your central vision.

About Dry Macular Degeneration

Dry 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 at the Eye Care & Surgery Center, the doctors 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. If you have Drusen, you may be asked to schedule eye examinations more frequently in order to monitor them or possibly even schedule a consultation with The Eye Care & Surgery Center Retinal Specialist 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. 

About Wet Macular Degeneration

Fortunately, Wet Macular Degeneration only accounts for about 10-15% of cases of Macular Degeneration, as it is likely to cause far more serious vision loss than Dry Macular Degeneration. Wet Macular Degeneration is characterized by an abnormal growth of new blood vessels 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 severe loss of central vision, which may be irreversible.