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Age-related macular degeneration or AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in people over 55 affecting more than 10 million people in the U.S. alone. AMD is a degenerative disease that affects an area of the eye known as the macula. Located at the center of the retina the macula is roughly the size of this capital letter O. Its what gives us the detailed vision we need to do things like reading driving recognizing faces and other things that require sharp high-definition straight-ahead vision. AMD often starts in one eye and after several years develops in the other. There are two types of AMD: wet (choroidal neovascular) AMD and dry (non-neovascular) AMD. Wet AMD occurs when delicate abnormal blood vessels form under the retina. This is called CNV (choroidal neovascularization). These fragile vessels leak blood and fluid beneath the retina causing it to distort or scar. This is the reason for loss of sharp vision in people with wet AMD. Wet AMD progresses far more rapidly than dry AMD with more severe effects potentially including complete central vision loss. Fortunately wet AMD occurs in only about 10% of cases. The other 90% of cases are people living with dry AMD which occurs when the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) begins to thin. Dry AMD is also associated with tiny yellow deposits called drusen that form beneath the retina. It has been suggested that as these drusen accumulate they may lift the cells that transport nutrients to the retina away from their blood supply impairing the transport of vital substances into and waste out of the central macular area of the retina. The result can be the loss of central vision. However in most cases people with dry AMD experience a less severe degree of vision loss in the beginning and it develops slowly over a period of years.
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