The macula deteriorates as one ages. Sometimes, the deterioration of the macula, as well as a predilection to risk factors such as heredity, race (whites are more susceptible to the condition than people of darker pigment), smoking, or a high-fat, low-antioxidant diet leads to age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The dry form of AMD occurs when yellow deposits called drusen form behind the retina. The larger or more prolific these drusen are, the more damage they cause to the pigment epithelial layer of the macula. This layer is directly behind the photoreceptor layer of the macula and provides the sensory cells with an oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood supply.
Nearly a quarter of people aged 65 to 74 develop age-related macular degeneration. One out of every three people aged 75 or older is afflicted with the disease. Dry AMD is the most common form of AMD.
People with the very early stages of dry AMD rarely experience any noticeable vision problems, but when the pigment epithelial layer sustains damage, central vision loss occurs.
AMD is not painful, though the vision loss it causes can be frustrating. The macula allows one to have crisp, clear central vision. Its break down causes images in the direct line of sight to lose their sharpness. Central vision will become blurred, and over time the ability to perform some activities of daily living and enjoy some common pastimes will be affected. For example, reading and the ability to recognize faces may become difficult. However, total blindness does not normally occur, since AMD does not affect peripheral vision.
There is not a cure for dry AMD, but a specific multi-vitamin and mineral supplement has been found effective in stopping the conversion of the disease from the dry form to the more serious neovascular form of AMD. The supplement is a combination of anti-oxidants and vitamins that are known to contribute to blood vessel integrity, thus preventing weakened blood vessels from bleeding, breaking, or bursting. The supplement should only be taken under a medical professional’s guidance.