Age-related macular degeneration or AMD is a disease of the central area of the retina called macula. Increasingly widespread, it is disabling but can be supported. Here are ten things you should know about it.
1. It is due to a deterioration of the macula
Age-related macular degeneration results from the deterioration of the macula, the central area of the retina at the back of the eye near the optic nerve.
It is from this part of the retina that the best visual acuity comes.
2. It causes a loss of vision
Macular degeneration results in a progressive loss of central vision, which becomes more and more blurred.
Close vision (especially reading, driving, face recognition) becomes complicated as you go.
3. It mainly affects people aged 55 and over
In the US, over 200,000 people are diagnosted with age-related macular degeneration each year.
It is the leading cause of blindness in people over 50, hence its name, age-related macular degeneration. However, there are ways to slow down its evolution.
4. It can be hereditary
There is also a hereditary form of this disease, which is transmitted by genes: Stargardt’s disease.
It occurs during childhood or adolescence. However, the genes are certainly multiple, so we can not say that there is a gene for AMD proper.
5. It is made worse by tobacco
Smoking is a major risk factor: compared to non-smokers, smokers are 2 to 3 times more likely to have a day with this condition.
In case of declared AMD or a family history, it is better to refrain from smoking and/or to find techniques that will promote stopping.
6. It can be delayed by a healthy lifestyle
In an epidemiological study of 1,113 women aged 55 to 74, people who ate well, did not smoke and were physically active were 3 times less at risk of macular degeneration than those who adopted less good habits of life.
7. It is related to inflammation
Researchers have found a correlation between blood levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation, and macular degeneration.
Inflammation could thus contribute to the onset of the disease. People suffering from an inflammatory disease would be more exposed to it.
8. It can be dry
Age-related dry macular degeneration or age-related atrophic macular degeneration is the least severe and most common form of macular degeneration. It evolves over several years.
Age-related macular degeneration begins with the dry form before evolving in about 1 in 10 people into the wet form.
9. It can be wet
Age-related wet macular degeneration, also referred to as exudative or neovascular, is an aggravation of the dry form. It is characterized by the formation of new blood vessels in the choroid, under the retina.
It causes vision loss faster than the dry form and can lead to complete loss of central vision.
10. There are ways to treat it
In its wet form, the most severe form of AMD, there are anti-angiogenic drug treatments, or “anti-VEGF” (pegaptanib, verteporfin, ranibizumab, anecortave). VEGF is a growth factor that allows the formation of neo-vessels.
Note that AMD can not cause total blindness since peripheral vision remains intact.