Bringing the future into focus

What is AMD?

Retinal photograph of a patient with wet AMDRetinal photograph of a patient with wet AMDLoss of central and sharp vision in a patient with AMDLoss of central and sharp vision in a patient with AMD

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in the elderly population of developed countries. AMD affects about 1.5% of individuals over the age of 50 and increases up to 20% in individuals over the age of 80. Because older people represent an increasingly larger percentage of the general population, vision loss from macular degeneration is a growing public health problem. In view of the aging population, the number of patients with AMD is expected to double within the next 15 years.

AMD is a degenerative disorder of the macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for the sharp, central vision needed to read or drive. At early stages of AMD visual symptoms are usually unnoticeable, while severe loss of central vision is prevalent at later stages. AMD is diagnosed as either dry (atrophic) or wet (neovascular).

Dry AMD is more common than the wet form, accounting for 80% of all AMD patients. Currently no pharmacological treatments are available for dry AMD, but nutrients such as beta-carotene (vitamin A) and vitamins C and E may help prevent or slow progression. In wet AMD abnormal leaky blood vessels grow into the macula, which can cause severe vision loss. Since recently, wet AMD can be treated with anti-VEGF, which blocks new blood vessel growth and leakiness, and can prevent vision loss.