Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of vision loss in those aged over 50. It causes a gradual loss of central vision. The disease does not lead to complete blindness. Visual loss can occur within months or over many years. There are two main types of AMD: “wet” and “dry.”
“Wet” AMD is more severe, but more treatable. Visual loss caused by AMD cannot normally be reversed. Symptoms include blurring of central vision and visual distortion. A “blind spot” then develops in the middle of the visual field. The causes and risk factors of AMD include smoking tobacco, excessive exposure of eyes to sunlight (particularly UV), hypertension, high-fat diet, and obesity.
Genetic factors also contribute significantly to the development of AMD; for example, having first-degree relatives with AMD increases the lifetime risk 2-3 fold. No treatment exists for “dry” macular degeneration, but taking a specific formulation of antioxidants and zinc may slow the progression of the disease. For “wet” AMD, treatments may include laser surgery, photodynamic therapy, and drugs to slow down progression.