Kenneth O. Sparks, M.D.
Vitreo-Retinal Surgery & Ophthalmology

Appointments online or call 323-655-8036
Services & Treatments


Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Age-related Macular degeneration (AMD) is an ocular condition that typically affects older adults and can possibly lead to blindness. It occurs when damage is done to the macula which is the centermost portion of the retina. The retina is a thin membrane in the back of the eye that sends signals to the brain through its connection to the optic nerve. The macula is made up of tens of thousands of light-sensing cells which produce central vision. Macular Degeneration can result in a profound loss of central vision as a result of this damage, leading to difficulty in performing important daily activities such as reading or driving.

What are the forms of AMD?

There are two types of Age-related Macular Degeneration: dry AMD and wet AMD. Dry AMD also called Central Geographic Atrophy is typically slower in onset but can produce significant visual loss. With dry Macular Degeneration, deterioration of the retinal pigment layer below the retina occurs and the effect can be likened to losing silver behind a mirror. This can produce gradual loss of small areas of central vision which in time can become extensive and debilitating Wet Macular Degeneration, or Neovascular/Exudative AMD, on the other hand, occurs when there is abnormal blood vessel growth beneath the central retina, which can ultimately lead to blood and protein leakage below the macula. If left untreated, the bleeding, leaking, and scarring from these blood vessels may cause irreversible damage to the photoreceptors and rapid vision loss.

What are the symptoms of AMD?

Symptoms of dry AMD include blurred vision, distorted vision, broken or missing letters, and a gradual loss of central vision. In those individuals with wet AMD, symptoms can also include shadows or missing areas of vision, distorted vision, curvy, wavy, or missing lines or objects, trouble differentiating colors, a slow recovery of vision after being exposed to bright lights, or a loss in contrast sensitivity. Neither wet or dry AMD actually cause physical pain or discomfort to the eye. The symptoms are all related to vision.

Normal Vision

Vision with AMD

Who is most at risk for developing AMD?

There are several risk factors for developing AMD, with age being the greatest risk. AMD can occur during middle age, but it is more common in people over the age of 60. Women tend to be at higher risk than men and Caucasians show a substantially higher prevalence of AMD. Smoking can increase this risk in both men and women, while other health problems, such as hypertension, may also be a contributing factor. There is a very strong inheritance pattern to this disease so if you have a suspected family history of Macular Degeneration or immediate family members who have AMD, you have a greater chance of developing this condition.

What kinds of treatments are offered for AMD?

Currently, there is no treatment or cure for dry AMD. It has been suggested that taking certain vitamins and minerals, such as beta-carotene, lutein, zeazanthin and zinc, may slow the progress of the disease. Some cases of wet AMD can be treated with certain laser treatments: thermal laser and ocular photodynamic therapy. The lasers aim at destroying the new blood vessels developing in your eye. Other FDA approved treatments and injections are also an option depending on your specific case of AMD. Dr Sparks will determine which treatment is right for you during your initial exam.

If you have any of these symptoms or any problems with your vision, contact Dr Sparks immediately and schedule an appointment today. If caught early, there is a higher chance of saving your vision or preventing blindness.
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