Macular Degeneration

Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is an age related disease of the retina, the light sensitive tissue that lines the back of our eye.  It affects only the portion of the retina that provides our fine central vision, called the macula.  ARMD is the leading cause of blindness in the US for patients over 50 years old.  The incidence of ARMD increases with age; 10% of patients 66 to 74 years old have the disease and this increases to 30% of patients over 75.  ARMD can run in families and smoking may be a risk factor for its development and progression.

There are two forms of ARMD often referred to as wet and dry.  Dry, or atrophic ARMD, is the most common type accounting for 90% of all patients.

Dry Macular Degeneration

Dry ARMD often presents as a slow loss of central vision.  Frequent monitoring of the vision is important.  Patients should follow an Amsler Grid (download PDF) to look for new distortions of their vision or areas that are missing.  These changes may represent progression of ARMD from dry to wet and an immediate examination is indicated.

Wet ARMD with leaking blood vessels under the retina.

Wet Macular Degeneration

Dry ARMD progresses to ARMD occurs in about 10% patients. Although with advanced form of ARMD only affects 10%, it accounts for 90% of the vision loss due to ARMD. Wet ARMD presents with a sudden change in vision.  The vision may become distorted, blurred and may have areas that are missing.  Wet ARMD is caused by new blood vessels growing in the eye which are accompanied by blood and/or swelling of the retina.  Urgent injection of medicine by a retinal specialist can shrink these abnormal vessels and halt the leakage and bleeding. laser treatment is sometimes needed to preserve the vision. Recurrences are common and periodic injection treatments can be required chronically.

Patients with macular degeneration should follow an Amsler Grid regularly and report any changes to their eye care provider as soon as possible.  Evaluation of a change in the Amsler Grid is urgent as it could be a sign of disease progression.

What can I do to slow the disease?

Vitamin Supplements for Macular Degeneration

It is recommended persons older than 55 years of age should have an eye exam to determine their level of risk.  Those patients at risk for ARMD disease progression, which can be determined with a retinal examination by our doctors, should consider taking a vitamin supplement.  Specific vitamins were shown in studies (the Age Related Eye Disease Studies, or AREDS) to reduce the risk of progression to advanced disease.

The study results of the second Age-Related Eye Disease Study (also called AREDS 2) were released in May 2013. This well-respected scientific study followed over 4200 patients for seven years. The study showed a small, but significant reduction of macular degeneration progression in some patients who took specific supplemental vitamins.  The vitamins did NOT make the vision better and do not prevent ARMD from occurring, but they did slow the damage in some patients. Out doctors and help you determine if you have characteristics of ARMD that place you in the category of patients that could benefit for vitamin supplements.

Visit the National Eye Institute web site for more in depth information regarding AREDS studies.

Note, if you smoke, you should NOT take supplementary beta-carotene in the original AREDS I formula, as this has been shown to increase your risk of lung cancer. The new AREDS 2 vitamins removed the beta-carotene.

We now recommend AREDS2 vitamins for all patients. We have Focus Select AREDS2 vitamins available at both offices.

FOCUS SELECT AREDS2 Vitamins are available at our office. These vitamins contain the same formula used in the Age Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) by the National Eye Institute study to decrease the risk of ARMD progression. 

Additional Resource:

The American Macular Degeneration Foundation

Phone:  (413) 268 – 7660

Website:  www.macular.org