Age Related Macular Degeneration


What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?

Age-Related Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over the age of 50. It is a progressive disease that can destroy your central vision, impairing your ability to perform common daily tasks such as reading, driving or watching television. One in ten people will lose vision from AMD in their lifetime.

The macula is a part or region of the eye’s retina and is the center area at the back of your eye.  The retina is the light sensitive nerve tissue where light strikes the back of the eye to form images. AMD causes the center area of your vision to be clouded, blurry, and/or dark.  You can have blind spots and still have clear vision around those blind spots or dark areas.


Types of AMD – Wet & Dry

Dry AMD  or atrophic AMD is so called “dry” due to breakdown, death or atrophy of macula cells.  Dry AMD is by far the most common form, with estimates ranging from 85%-90% of all cases diagnosed.  People experiencing Dry AMD may have a slow yellowing appear first on the macula with no vision loss.  AMD progresses with more cell death and a thinning of the macula layer.  This is when vision damage is noticeable with blurred vision and ultimately areas of vision loss.

Wet AMD or exudative condition AMD is called “wet” because it is associated with leakage of blood or cellular fluids into the retina from blood vessels in the layer below the macular.  This is also referred to as choroidal neovascularization.  


Is There Any Non-Age Related Degeneration?

Yes, there are other health conditions that experience a deterioation of the eye’s macula.  Stargardt disease is one example which is linked to genetics and not to a person’s age or environment.


What Causes Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

Multiple environmental and genetic factors are associated with AMD. Genetics account for over 70% of the risk of developing AMD, so having a first-degree relative (mother, father, brother, sister) with AMD suggests that you have a significantly increased risk of developing the disease.


Diagnosis & Treatment of AMD

Early diagnosis and determination of risk is critical

We know that early detection, diagnosis and treatment of AMD lead to better visual outcomes. Unfortunately, since vision loss usually occurs in one eye first and can take place over several weeks or months, most people with AMD may not recognize the problem immediately. As a result, up to 80% of people don’t visit their eye care professional until it is too late to protect the sight in the affected eye. To catch vision loss early, regular eye exams are very important, especially for patients at an increased risk of disease progression.

When you understand your risk, you and your eye care provider can develop a program that best manages your disease. Monitoring and treatment can begin before your symptoms progress, enabling you to achieve the best vision outcome.


Macula Risk® Genetic Testing for AMD

Macula Risk® is a prognostic DNA test intended for patients who have a diagnosis of Early or Intermediate AMD. Using the complete combination of AMD genes and smoking history, Macula Risk identifies those most likely to progress to advanced AMD with vision loss. Most insurance providers, including Medicare, reimburse the Macula Risk test.

Macula Risk uses a simple cheek swab to take a sample of your DNA. This sample is sent to a certified DNA testing laboratory for analysis, and your eye care provider will have your results back from the laboratory in 3-4 weeks. For patients with early or intermediate signs of AMD, Macula Risk identifies the 20% (1 in every 5) who are at the highest risk of vision loss due to AMD. Identifying these patients early will allow the eye care provider to implement a disease management strategy that best suits individual patient needs and is focused on sight preservation.

Regardless of family history, if you have early signs of AMD, you should speak to your eye care provider to determine if measures such as more regular eye examinations and testing with Macula Risk are appropriate for you. Macula Risk genetic testing is only available through an eye care professional.   Call us to schedule an appointment with one of our eye doctors to be tested.