Dry AMD is most common type of macular degeneration and affects 90% of the people who have the condition. In the dry form, there is a breakdown or thinning of the layer of retinal pigment epithelial cells (RPE) in the macula. These RPE cells support the light sensitive photoreceptor cells that are so critical to vision. When we look at something, the photoreceptors (rods and cones) gather the images and send them to the brain, where vision takes place.
The death or degeneration of these cells is called atrophy. Hence, dry AMD is often referred to as atrophic AMD. It is characterized by the presence of drusen (dots of yellow crystalline deposits that develop within the macula) and thinning of the macula. Dry or atrophic MD reduces the central vision and can effect color perception. Generally, the damage caused by the “dry” form is not as severe or rapid as that of the “wet” form. However, over time, it can cause profound vision loss. The more advanced stage of dry macular degeneration is Geographic Atrophy, where a patch of photoreceptor cells die off.
What Are Drusen?
Drusen are tiny yellow or white deposits in a layer of the retina called Bruchs membrane. They are the most common early sign of dry age-related macular degeneration. Drusen are made up of lipids, a type of fatty protein. They may be the result of a failure of the eye to dispose of waste products that are produced when the photoreceptors of the eye drop off older parts of the cell.
There are several types of drusen with different levels of risk. Drusen can be small, hard and scattered far apart from each other. They are round and distinct. This type may not create vision problems for a long time and may not even be an indication of macular degeneration.
How Did I Get Dry AMD?
There are many risk factors that contribute to age-related macular degeneration. Studies in large populations show that statistically a person’s chance of developing a disease is increased by risk factors. In your case, it is probably a combination of things. Some of them are completely out of your control, like family history. Other factors relate to your own lifestyle and are things you can change.
What Can I Do About Dry AMD?
There are things you can do to reduce the risk of macular degeneration and take charge of AMD. Research with large populations of people around the world has revealed a whole list of lifestyle risk factors that can be changed. If you are in the intermediate stage of dry AMD, certain supplements may slow the progression by as much as 25%.
At this time, there are no proven medical treatments for dry macular degeneration. There is one surgical implant that can help some people gain more functional vision. There are also some unproven treatments that you may have heard about.
However, there are a large number of research projects and clinical trials underway that show promise. If you are interested in staying up to date on these efforts, visit our Clinical Trials page.