CAN THE DRY FORM OF AMD TURN INTO THE WET FORM?

Dr. Jim Martin 02/10/2016

man_with_magnifying_glass.pngAge-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is the top cause of vision loss and blindness in the age 65 and up segment of the American population. As this segment of the population is continuing to grow, macular degeneration is becoming a more widespread issue. Macular degeneration is just as its name suggests: a degeneration of the macula, which is the region of the retina required for sharp, central vision. There are two types of macular degeneration: dry and wet.

Dry AMD

About 85-90% of AMD patients receive the diagnosis of dry AMD. It is an early stage of the condition and may come about from the thinning and aging of macular tissues, amassing of coloring in the macula, or some mix of these two processes.

When drusen or yellowish spots begin to build up in and around the macula, an eye care provider will issue the diagnosis of dry macular degeneration. It is believed that these spots are debris or deposits from tissue that is breaking down. There may be some central vision loss with dry AMD, but typically it isn't nearly as severe as the central vision loss that wet AMD patients experience. However, over a period of years, dry AMD can gradually progress to end stage geographic atrophy (GA), a slow breaking down of retinal cells that also brings about severe vision loss.

Wet AMD

In approximately 10% of macular degeneration cases, dry degeneration progresses to the more severe wet degeneration. Once the disease has progressed, new blood vessels form beneath the retina, leaking blood and other fluids. This leakage brings about irreversible damage to light sensitive retinal cells, which die, forming blind spots in central vision.

The underlying process behind wet degeneration and the atypical blood vessel growth is referred to as choroidal neovascularization (CNV). This process is the body's well-intentioned, but ultimately harmful, method for creating a new blood vessel network to bring more oxygen and nutrients to the eye's retina. Instead, the process forms significant scarring, sometimes leading to severe central vision loss.

There are two types of wet macular degeneration:

  • Occult. The new blood vessel growth underneath the retina and leakage in occult CNV are both minimal, which often produces less severe vision loss.
  • Classic. Blood vessel growth and scarring with prominent, delineated outlines underneath the retina are the primary symptoms of classic CNV, which typically produces more severe vision loss.

Eye care professionals can often spot early signs of macular degeneration before symptoms occur. Call Broome Optical today to set up your retinal screening and learn about treatment options.

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