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Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition that, over time, destroys a person’s ability to focus sharply. The macular is a structure within the eyeball responsible for the perception of fine detail. Peripheral vision remains unchanged. The advanced stages of the disease render tasks such as driving or reading impossible. AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in people over 60 years of age, with around a third affected by the age of 75. Only 2% of middle aged people are affected.

There two forms of the condition, wet and dry AMD, respectively. The former is characterized by the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the retina. These blood vessels are fragile and leak blood and fluid, which lifts the macular away from its normal position. Damage to the macular occurs very rapidly. A breakdown of the light sensitive cells of the macular leads to dry AMD. The central vision becomes gradually more blurred. Eventually central vision is lost in the affected eye. Wet AMD is always a progression from dry AMD, but dry AMD does not always become wet AMD. The dry variation has several stages which are early intermediate and advanced while wet AMD has only one, an advanced stage.

AMD is diagnosed by means of a dilated eye exam. Drops are used to dilate the pupil and the specialist uses a magnifier to study the back of the eye for signs of AMD along with other optical problems. further specialized tests may be done. Various factors increase the chances of suffering from AMD; the most common of which are smoking and obesity. Women are more likely than men to get AMD and Caucasians are more at risk than African Americans. Having a close relative with the ailment also increases the chances of acquiring the condition.

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