Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the most common causes of poor vision after age 60. Although the specific cause is unknown, AMD seems to be part of aging. While age is the most significant risk factor for developing AMD, heredity, blue eyes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and smoking have also been identified as risk factors. AMD accounts for 90 percent of new legal blindness in the US.

Nine out of 10 people who have AMD have the dry form, which results in thinning of the macula, the area of the retina responsible for central vision. Dry AMD takes many years to develop. Currently there is no treatment.

The wet form of AMD occurs much less frequently (one out of 10 people) but is more serious.

Laser surgery is the only proven effective treatment, to date, for wet AMD. The procedure usually does not improve vision but prevents further loss of vision.

The visual symptoms of AMD involve loss of central vision. While peripheral vision is unaffected, one loses the sharp, straight-ahead vision necessary for driving, reading, recognizing faces, and generally looking at detail. Imagine being able to see a clock on the wall but unable to make out the time or unable to read because you could not see parts of words on the page.

Promising AMD research is being done on many fronts. In the meantime, high-intensity reading lamps, magnifiers and other low-vision aids help people with AMD make the most of remaining vision.


Birdshot Retinochoroidopathy(BR)

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the most common causes of poor vision after age 60. Birdshot retinochoroidopathy (BR) is a rare, inflammatory condition of the retina and choroid, the layer of blood vessels under the retina. BR usually occurs in Caucasian women over the age of forty.

The cause of BR is unknown. It usually affects both eyes. Symptoms are poor vision, night blindness, and disturbance of color vision. Pain is rare.

Fluorescein angiography, a test for evaluating the retina and choroid, detects BR’s characteristic cream-colored spots, similar in appearance to the splattered pattern of birdshot from a shotgun.

BR is a chronic disease that flares up and then goes into remission. Although some people eventually lose vision, others maintain or recover good vision.

If you have been diagnosed with birdshot retinochoroidopathy, it is important to see your ophthalmologist regularly.


Branch Retinal Artery Occlusion (BRAO)

Most people know high blood pressure and other vascular diseases pose risks to overall health, but many may not know that high blood pressure can affect vision by damaging arteries in the eye.

Branch retinal artery occlusion (BRAO) blocks the small arteries in the retina, the light- sensing nerve layer lining the back of the eye. The most common cause of BRAO is a thrombosis, the formation of a blood clot. Sometimes the blockage is caused by an embolus, a clot carried by the blood from another part of the body.

Central vision is lost suddenly if the blocked retinal artery is one that nourishes the macula, the part of the retina responsible for fine sharp vision. Following BRAO, vision can range from normal (20/20) to barely detecting hand movement.

BRAO poses significant risks to vision. If you have had a branch retinal artery occlusion or have high blood pressure, regular visits to your ophthalmologist are essential.