How to Know if You Have Wet or Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration

While age-related macular degeneration is a common cause of vision loss, it’s important to understand which type you have and what treatment options are available.

According to the National Eye Institute, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss among Americans 50 years and older. While the condition is a relatively common one — especially as we age — that doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly. Instead, it’s important to learn more about the condition and to speak with an eye care specialist about treatment options.

What’s more, there are different types of the condition — wet age-related macular degeneration and dry age-related macular degeneration — that have different effects on your eyes and that have varying degrees of severity. If you’re unclear which is which or which type you might have, take the time to learn more so you can be on the same page as your doctor when the time comes.

What is AMD?

AMD is a condition that causes damage to the macula, which is a part of the eye located near the center of the retina that helps us see with clarity and differentiate objects that are directly ahead of us in our field of vision. As AMD develops — and it can develop slowly or with alarming speed — the central part of the visual field can become blurry, blank spots can develop, and objects may not be as bright as they once were.

Dry AMD is the most common type of the condition, affecting approximately 80% to 90% of those with AMD. This variety progresses less rapidly than wet AMD and involves the formation of deposits on the retina known as drusen. Drusen appear beneath the macula and cause it to deteriorate over time.

Wet AMD is the less common fo the two, affecting about 10% to 15% of those with AMD. However, it’s the most serious variety of AMD, accounting for nearly 90% of severe vision loss connected with the condition. Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow around the macula. When these blood vessels break, they leak fluid into the eye that damages the macula.

What Causes Wet and Dry AMD?

Aside from the immediate issues that lead to these conditions — drusen in dry AMD and abnormal blood vessel growth in wet AMD — the real causes are unknown. Considerable research is being done to learn more about AMD, but as of yet all we know with confidence is that several risk factors can contribute to the condition.

For example, those with a family history of AMD are more likely to develop the condition than those without it, as are Caucasians in compared with African Americans and Hispanic Americans. Similarly, those with a history of smoking have a greater chance of developing AMD, especially as they age.

How Are Wet and Dry AMD Treated?

Unfortunately, there is no outright cure for either wet or dry AMD. Because the condition can advance rapidly, it’s especially important to have regular eye exams as you get older in order to spot AMD before it causes significant damage. Also, wet AMD only develops after dry AMD, so you should be particularly vigilant if you already have the latter.

Aside from a complete cure, there are vitamin supplements, injections, and laser surgery that can help repair vision loss to a limited degree. Until that point, it’s helpful to make lifestyle changes that can prevent AMD from forming, such as sticking to a healthy diet, abstaining from smoking, and exercising regularly.  

Although relatively common, AMD is a serious condition that can affect your quality of life as you age. This means that it’s important to get regular eye exams and tell your doctor if you experience any symptoms that may be linked to AMD.

If you’re curious about AMD or you’d like to schedule a regular exam, reach out to ICON Eyecare to set up a consultation. Our team can help you understand your eye health, pinpoint any possible issues, and prepare treatment plans as needed.

Is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Hereditary?

Heredity and genetics are risk factors for age-related macular degeneration, but there’s more to the condition than that.

February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month, making this month a great time for patients to learn more about the condition and speak with eye care specialists about any concerns they might have. With age-related macular degeneration (AMD) classified as the most common cause of vision loss for Americans over 50 — about 10 million people in the United States are affected by it — it’s important to get the conversation started with your doctor, especially if you’re nearing or past your 50th birthday.

To that end, there are some AMD questions that eye care specialists answer on a regular basis. For example, many patients are concerned whether a family history of AMD will affect their chances of developing the condition — and if so, to what extent. Although doctors can’t tell you with 100% certainty whether you’ll develop AMD, they can speak with you about preventable and unpreventable risk factors that can contribute to your chances.

What is AMD?

AMD, as the name suggests, damages the macula and most often affects those 50 or older. The macula is located near the center of the retina and is responsible for helping us see objects in fine detail.

For some, AMD develops so gradually that it’s difficult to tell you even have the condition or to notice that your vision is deteriorating. For others, AMD can set in quickly and lead to vision loss on a much shorter timeline.

On its own, AMD does not cause blindness, but it can create complications for those leading an active lifestyle. Because the macula allows us to see things clearly, damage to the macula can make it difficult to read, drive, or discern individual faces. After a time, it’s possible for AMD to leave blank spots in your field of vision.

What are its Risk Factors?

There is no known cure for AMD and it’s not possible to tell with 100% certainty whether someone will develop the condition. However, there are risk factors that may indicate a predisposition toward AMD — some preventable and others not.

For instance, smoking increases your chances of developing AMD two to three times. Unprotected exposure to sunlight — blue wavelengths specifically — can cause damage to the macula that can lead to AMD. Your diet can also play a role, too. Americans who eat a lot of artificial fats and processed foods, who have high cholesterol, and who don’t consume enough vegetables increase their odds of vision loss through AMD.

Do Heredity and Genetics Play a Role?

Unfortunately, heredity and genetics do play a role in AMD. While a family history of the condition doesn’t guarantee that you’ll develop it, too, your chances are higher. Experts say that, if a parent or sibling has AMD, you’re three to four times more likely to develop it yourself.

If you’re concerned about AMD and have a family history of the condition, there are tests you can take to better understand your risk. For instance, there are tests available that combine pharmacogenetic and prognostic DNA methods to determine your genetic risk profile and your chances of progression to advanced AMD.

Who Can I Talk to about AMD?

Because AMD is so common, eye care specialists will be ready to speak with you about the condition whenever you have any questions. If you’d like to get that conversation started sooner rather than later, consider scheduling a consultation with ICON Eyecare today. Together, our team can help you better understand your chances of AMD, accurately diagnose you if you already have the condition, and devise a treatment plan based on your specific needs.

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