age-related macular degeneration (dry AMD), vision gradually becomes worse over the years. As the cells and
blood vessels beneath the macula age, they begin to thin and break down. When
these cells and blood vessels stop working, the nerve cells in the macula that
detect light cannot function properly. As more and more of the nerve cells in
the macula break down, vision loss very slowly gets worse. At present, there is
no treatment to prevent this vision loss. But a diet rich in
zinc and antioxidant vitamins may slow the progression of vision loss.
Vision loss from dry AMD is often slow and gradual, allowing you to make
adjustments over time. A small percentage of people who have dry AMD develop
the abnormal blood vessels that lead to wet AMD.
The impact AMD
has on your life will depend on your
lifestyle and on how bad your vision loss is. Even though AMD may affect
central vision, it does not cause complete blindness. And most people keep good side (peripheral) vision. For information on adapting
to reduced vision, see the Home Treatment section of this topic.
With wet age-related macular degeneration
(wet AMD), vision can suddenly become worse. Wet AMD
begins with the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the macula, which is the
part of the eye that is responsible for
central vision. These blood vessels break easily. They
leak blood and fluid and cause scar tissue, all of which push against the
macula. They change the macula's shape and cause it to send distorted images to
your brain. Straight lines begin to appear wavy or curved, and objects may seem
oddly shaped or smaller.
Scar tissue also cuts off the macula
from the normal support cells that it needs in order to work. Nerve cells in
the macula begin to die, causing a loss of central vision.
the nerve cell damage is contained in a small area, it causes a blank spot to
develop in your field of vision. As this area expands, the blank spot also gets
If not treated, the scar beneath the macula may continue
to grow, affecting more and more of the nerve cells in the macula. Vision loss
gets worse as more of the macula becomes involved. The entire macula may be
destroyed by this process, resulting in a complete loss of central
Treatment can sometimes delay or prevent further vision
loss, but it cannot reverse vision loss that has already occurred. Normal use
of the eyes (such as for reading or watching television) will not speed up
vision loss or make the condition worse. Loss of vision from wet AMD may
progress rapidly. This does not allow much time for those affected to adjust to
the vision loss and find ways to live with it.
For information on
adapting to reduced vision, see the Home Treatment section of this
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