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What is age related macular degeneration (AMD) eye disorder?

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a chronic eye disorder that occurs more commonly after age 50. It results primarily in the loss of central vision. It is marked by deterioration of the macula, a spot of densely packed specialized cells centered at the back of the retina. These cells allow you to see color and fine detail. Damage to these cells can leave you with a blind spot in the central portion of your vision.

There are two types of AMD: dry and wet.
With dry AMD, initial changes occur in the retinal pigment epithelium, a thin layer of tissue sandwiched between the photo-sensitive cells of the retina and a layer of blood vessels. The choroids is the nourishing vascular coat of the eye that extends from the iris back to the optic nerve. The choroids lies between the retina and the tough outer shell of the eye called the sclera. The RPE forms the outermost surface of the retina and provides a critical passage way for nutrients and waste products between the retina and the choroids. Dry AMD tends to progress slowly and some people may not be bothered by it unless they live to a very old age. Evidence suggests that certain vitamins and minerals in your diet may help slow the progression of AMD.

The wet form of AMD is characterized by abnormal blood vessels that grow from the choroids into the space underneath the retinal pigment epithelium and the retina. Plasma and blood can leak into tissues and destroy light sensitive cells. Almost all cases of wet AMD start out as the dry form. Wet AMD also progresses much more rapidly than dry form. If dark spots are seen in the center of your vision or wavy visual distortions, these may be signs of wet AMD. One of the most common and effective treatment for wet AMD is the use of anti-angiogenic medications. These medications are injected directly into the eye which will prevent or retard the growth of new abnormal blood vessels by blocking the effects of a growth factor that these blood vessels need to thrive.

Other older therapies for wet AMD include photocoagulation and photodynamic therapy. These destroy the abnormal blood vessels beneath the retina. These procedures have certain drawbacks and are also limited by where and to what extent the vessels have formed.

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