Wet vs. Dry Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is one of the most common types of eye condition, affecting as many as 11 million adults in the United States at the current time. Macular degeneration, which is also referred to as age-related macular degeneration or AMD, occurs as a result of the natural deterioration of a part of the eye called the macular. The macular is located at the very back of the eye and is responsible for both the central vision and our ability to see fine detail. As the cells begin to deteriorate, it becomes harder for us to see things around us in any detail. This can make basic tasks such as reading, using a computer, watching television, or even recognizing faces much more difficult. Macular degeneration doesn’t usually cause total blindness. Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure, but many patients manage to learn to manage their condition.


Despite being a very common condition, many people are unaware that there are actually two different types of macular degeneration. These are known as ‘wet’ and ‘dry’.


What is wet macular degeneration?

Wet macular degeneration only accounts for around 10% of cases of the condition and in most cases, patients are diagnosed with dry AMD first before it progresses to the wet variety. It is called ‘wet’ AMD because it is characterized by the abnormal growth and leaking of blood vessels serving the retina. These new blood vessels are weak, and this means that they leak fluid and blood into the layers of the retina, causing scar tissue to form which prevents the retinal cells from functioning as they should. This compromises the patient’s vision.


Treatment for wet macular degeneration usually involves regular eye injections of medications known as anti-VEGFs. Alternatively, you may be recommended to try photodynamic therapy (PDT) which involves a special light being shined onto the back of the eyes to destroy the abnormal blood vessels.


What is dry macular degeneration?

Dry macular degeneration is by far the most common type of AMD, accounting for up to 90% of cases. It is called dry because it doesn’t have the leaking of the blood cells of the wet variety of AMD. Instead, small white or yellowish deposits called drusen form on the retina, beneath the macular, which cause it to degenerate. Dry macular degeneration usually develops over a number of months and years, and symptoms arise very slowly – so much so that you may not even notice them for some time.


There isn’t currently any treatment for dry AMD, but visual aids such as prescription lenses, magnifying glasses, and bright lights can help patients to live with the condition.


Symptoms of macular degeneration

Symptoms of macular degeneration will either develop very slowly or rapidly, normally depending on the type of AMD you are experiencing. These may include any or a combination of the following:

- Difficulty tolerating bright light.

- Spots or shadows appearing in your vision.

- Straight lines that appear distorted, wavy, or bent.

- Colors appear less bright than they should.

- You find it difficult to visually adapt when you move from bright to dark environments.

- Objects appear to change in shape or size when you look at them.

- Objects may appear to move or disappear, such as a word you are reading may seem to jump lines or vanish, when looking at them.


Am I at risk of developing macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration can affect anyone, although it is particularly common in older patients – hence being referred to as ‘age-related’ macular degeneration. However, there are some additional factors that can increase your likelihood of developing AMD. These include the following:

- Being obese (a Body Mass Index/BMI of over 30)

- Failing to get enough exercise

- A family history of the condition

- Suffering from high blood pressure

- Smoking

- Taking certain medications, including some anti-psychotics and drugs used to treat nausea and vomiting

- Excessive UV exposure without adequate protection



If you are concerned about macular degeneration, or if you would like to learn more about the different types and what you can do to preserve your vision for as long as possible, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our expert eye care team today.

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