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The macula is a tiny area of a part of the eye called the retina which is located at the back of the eye. The macula is involved in detecting fine detail, colour and seeing things directly in front of you.
There are two main types of AMD, termed ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ and each has a different cause.
Dry AMD is more common than wet AMD. This type of AMD develops slowly, causing a gradual change in central vision. Dry AMD is caused by the breakdown of retinal tissue, which prevents efficient transfer of nutrients to, and waste products from, the eye. Waste products build up and damage the cells in the retina leading to central vision becoming blurred and ill-defined. Around 10% of people with dry AMD will go on to develop wet AMD also.
In wet AMD abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the macula causing swelling and bleeding in the eye which leads to damage to the cells of the macula. This damage can eventually lead to scarring which, along with the abnormal blood vessels, leads to central vision loss. Wet AMD can develop very quickly but it is treatable when caught early so it is important to report any changes in your vision to your GP or an optician as soon as you notice them.
Is has not been established exactly why either type of AMD develops but a number of risk factors have been established. These include:
• Age – the older we get the more likely we are to develop AMD. Most cases of AMD develop in the over 55s.
• Gender –AMD seems to be more common in women than in men.
• Family history- it is unclear what genes may be involved in AMD but it is known that if you have a brother or sister with AMD you are 5 times more likely to develop the condition.
• Ethnicity –white and Chinese people are at a higher risk of developing AMD while black people have a lower risk.
• Smoking –smokers are around 3 times more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers.
Poor diet, frequent exposure to strong sunlight, obesity and high blood pressure may also be implicated in the development of AMD. Stopping smoking and eating a diet including plenty of fruit and vegetables may all help to keep your eyes healthy but this cannot guarantee that you will not get AMD.
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