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I would bet you have heard the term Macular Degeneration at one time or another. But what actually is this condition? Is it treatable? And how do you get it?

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is a breakdown of the macula, the central most area of the retina. The retina is the tissue lining the back of the eye. It is responsible for processing light. Therefore, the condition called Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) manifests itself as visual disturbances. ARMD is a condition that can cause permanent loss of eyesight. It rarely causes total blindness but Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is the major cause of vision loss in people over the age of 50. ARMD may also lead to “legal blindness.” “Legal Blindness” is defined as 20/200 vision or worse in a person’s better eye.

The vision loss is a result of “damage” to the macula. The damage is often in the form of the macular tissue thinning, or breaking down. Exactly why this breakdown occurs is unknown. But, since the macula is responsible for “straight ahead” vision, the eye can usually still see objects to the side or peripherally. However, this type of limited vision makes it hard to do close work such as reading.

Is ARMD treatable or preventable? At this time, NO treatment has been uniformly effective. However, there is thought that proper nutrition plays a role in ARMD. Zinc is one of the most common trace minerals in our body and it is highly concentrated in the eye. It has been shown that many older people have low concentrations of zinc in their blood. This is important because zinc is necessary for certain chemical reactions in the retina. Hence, this school of thought is that supplements of zinc might slow down the process of ARMD. Another theory based on the importance of good nutrition is the thought that “free Radicals” in the retina can contribute to cell degeneration. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables containing the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E may neutralize these “free radicals.” Again, at this time there is no consensus that these antioxidants actually help ARMD. Since recommended daily allowances of these vitamins are readily available through a diet rich in fruits and vegetables or in supplement form, many ophthalmologists recommend to their patients paying attention to their diets and taking vitamin supplements. So there really was a reason why you were told eating carrots is good for your eyes.

Characteristics of Age Related Macular Degeneration:

  • ARMD is most often related to aging ( there are other types.)
  • ARMD is most likely to affect fair-skinned and \ or light-haired people.
  • ARMD may be hereditary, and might run in families.
  • ARMD may only affect one eye, or it may affect both eyes.
  • A frequent and important symptom of ARMD is distortion of objects.
  • Often when symptoms are noticeable, the person is no longer in the early stages of ARMD.
  • Early detection by an Ophthalmologist is important because further damage may be prevented.
  • Age-Related Macular Degeneration (the most common type) has no known cure at this time.

There are ophthalmic laser treatments or low vision aids that may be used to treat patients.

Most importantly, have a complete eye exam by an Ophthalmologist (eyeMD- medical Eye Doctor) on a regular basis. They could detect early Age-Related Macular Degeneration even before a patient experiences symptoms.

A simple test that helps in the detection of ARMD is the use of the Amsler Grid.

How To Use The Amsler Grid:

  1. Wear your reading glasses, if you have some.
  2. Cover one eye.
  3. While looking directly at the center be sure that all the lines are straight and all the small squares are the same size.
  4. If there is a distortion, blurred, discolored or otherwise abnormal spot on the grid you should call your ophthalmologist.
  5. Perform test on each eye separately.

If you notice any distortion of the grid, please contact your eye doctor. For more information regarding Macular Degeneration, visit: