Age-related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is a common eye disease that affects a tiny area in the center of the retina known as the macula. The macula is made up of millions of light-sensing cells that help to produce sharp central vision. ARMD breaks down these cells, gradually destroying central vision.
It is estimated that over 13 million Americans over the age of 40 show early signs of ARMD, and it is the leading cause of legal blindness and vision impairment in the senior population. ARMD occurs in two forms – Wet and Dry – with women being at a higher risk for developing both wet and dry ARMD than men. Age is the most important factor and has been shown to be strongly linked to ARMD.
Other risk factors are:
- Cigarette smoking
- Diet with saturated fat and cholesterol
- Family member with ARMD
- Excessive sunlight exposure
90% of individuals diagnosed with ARMD have the dry form. The light sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down, affecting central vision over time. Dry ARMD often occurs in just one eye at first, and doctors have no way of knowing when, or if, both eyes will be affected.
Only 10% of individuals diagnosed with ARMD have the wet form. It is this form of ARMD that accounts for 90% of all blindness. New blood vessels behind the retina begin to grow toward the macula. These vessels are very fragile and often leak blood and fluid under the macula, rapidly causing the damage that leads to loss of central vision.
Ophthalmologists are unsure what causes macular degeneration. The most common symptom of dry ARMD is slightly blurred vision. As the disease progresses, a blurred spot forms in the center of your vision gradually becoming larger and darker, reducing central vision. Straight lines that appear wavy are early symptoms of wet ARMD, often followed by a rapid loss of central vision. As in dry ARMD, you may also notice a blind spot. Neither dry nor wet ARMD causes any pain.
- Blurring of central vision
- Distortion of objects
- Straight lines appear wavy
- Central blind spot
It is very important to call our office immediately if you notice any of the symptoms shown above as early discovery can preserve vision. ARMD is detected through a comprehensive eye examination during which Dr. Christopher Larson, Dr. Todd Larson or Dr. Lavey will examine the health of your retina. Once ARMD is detected, additional testing may be recommended to assess the progression of the disease and to determine the best treatment plan.