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macular degenerationAge-related Macular Dengeneration (AMD) is a deterioration or breakdown of the eye's macula. The macula is a small area in the retina. It is the light-sensitive tissue lining in the back of the eye. The macular is the part of the retina that is responsible for our central vision and allows us to see fine details very clearly.  

There are two common types of macular degeneration -- "dry" and "wet". Most people have dry macular degeneration and vision loss is gradual. In the early stages, people may not be aware they have macular degeneration until they notice slight changes in their vision.  Often, an eye exam reveals macular degeneration, making an annual eye exam important.

The second form is "wet" macular degeneration. It is less common and the result of abnormal blood vessels forming under the retina in the back of the eye. These blood vessels leak fluid or blood, causing central vision to become blurry. Vision loss with "wet" macular degeneration is usually more rapid and severe.

Typical signs of the disease are dark or empty areas in the center vision and straight lines that become distorted.

Causes of Macular Degeneration

New information on macular degeneration has recently been discovered. Genetic changes appear to be responsible for nearly half of the individuals who developed macular degeneration. In addition, macular degeneration is part of the body's natural aging process. One large research study found that the risk of getting macular degeneration increases from about 2 percent of people in their 50s to nearly 30 percent in people over age 75.

Treatment Options for Macular Degeneration

Unfortunately, at this time there is no single proven treatment for the "dry" form of macular degeneration. However, a large scientific study study has shown that antioxidant vitamins and zinc may reduce the impact of macular degeneration in some people by slowing its progress toward more advanced stages of vision loss.  Certain types of "wet" macular degeneration can be treated with injections to help slow or stop leaking blood vessels from damaging the macula.  This procedure may help to preserve sight, but is not a cure to restore vision to normal. Be sure to ask your doctor about the latest advances in treatments for macular degeneration.