Frequently Asked Questions
Age-related Macular Degeneration
What is ARMD?
Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD): As the name implies, it is an eye disease associated with aging which gradually deteriorates the macula and is painless. ARMD is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years of age and older.
Dry ARMD is by far the most common form of ARMD. It occurs when the light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down. As dry ARMD gets worse, there may be a gradual blurring central vision in the affected eye, which is the most common symptom. Over time, as less of the macula functions, more and more of the central vision is gradually lost and recognizing faces may be difficult due to the loss of ability to see fine detail. Additional light for reading and other tasks may also need to be increased to see as well as possible. Dry ARMD generally affects both eyes, but it can be asymmetric in the severity between the eyes.
Dry ARMD has three stages, which can occur in one or both eyes:
- Early ARMD: This beginning stage usually does not involve vision loss and often there are no symptoms that the patient notices. However, during an eye exam, there are some appearance changes seen clinically that can be detected by an eye doctor. If you have vision loss from dry ARMD in one eye only, you may not notice any changes in your overall vision. With the other eye seeing clearly, you still can drive a car, read, and see fine details.
- Intermediate ARMD: Some people with intermediate ARMD may see a blurred spot in the center of their vision and may find that more light may be needed for reading and other tasks.
- Advanced dry ARMD: A breakdown of light-sensitive cells and supporting tissue in the central retinal area which can often cause a blurred spot in the center of your vision. Over time, the blurred spot may get bigger and darker, as more of the macular area is affected. As more of the central vision becomes more distorted reading and recognizing objects until they are very close to you becomes more difficult. Patients who have advanced ARMD in one eye are at especially high risk of developing advanced ARMD in the other eye.
Wet ARMD occurs when abnormal new blood vessels behind the retina start to form under the macula. These new blood vessels are often very fragile and can potentially leak blood and fluid in and under the retina tissue. The blood and fluid raise the macula from its normal place at the back of the eye and cause blurry and distorted vision. Loss of central vision can occur more quickly with this form of ARMD. An early symptom of wet ARMD is that straight lines appear wavy. If you notice this condition or other changes to your vision, let Dr. Rudser know immediately.
Where is the macula?
The macula is located in the center of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. It is responsible for your central vision, seeing fine details and color vision.
What is the cause of ARMD?
Doctors and scientists are still not sure what causes ARMD, which makes it hard to come up with an effective treatment. There continues to be a tremendous amount of research currently being done with this disease as more of the population ages and lives longer. In addition to trying to better understand what causes it they are also looking at how the disease process works, develop more effective treatment options and determine if there is any preventative or protective factors that patients can do earlier in life.
Visual perception photos above of ocular disease come from the NIH website.