Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 50 in the US. It is a disease of the retina. The retina is a layer of light-sensing cells lining the back of your eye. This condition damages a portion of the retina called the macula, which is located in the center of the retina and enables you to see fine details clearly. You rely on your macula whenever you read, drive, or do other activities that require you to focus on fine details. Some people with AMD may lose the ability to perceive fine details both up close and at a distance. The side vision is usually not affected, as AMD usually affects only the central vision.

There are two types of AMD. About 90% of people with AMD have the “dry” form of AMD, which develops when the tissues of the macula grow thin with age and debris accumulates behind the retina. About 10% of people with AMD have the “wet” form of AMD. With wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels grow underneath and into the retina. These unhealthy vessels leak blood and fluid, which can scar the macula. Vision loss in the wet form can be rapid and severe.

In AMD, the heat energy from light interacts with oxygen in the retina and leads to the production of highly reactive and damaging compounds called free radicals, causing damage to proteins, membranes, and DNA in a chemical process called oxidative damage. Antioxidant vitamins (vitamins C and E and beta-carotene) may work against this activated oxygen and help slow the progression of macular degeneration.

It is very important to remember that vitamin supplements are not a cure for AMD, nor will they restore vision you may have already lost from the disease. For most people, eating healthy is the best way to obtain the nutrients you need for your eyes. You should speak with your eye doctor to determine if you are at risk for developing advanced AMD and to learn if healthy nutrition is recommended for you.