The center of the retina is known as the macula, and is responsible for the detailed central vision that is required to see details, such as read and recognize faces. With increasing age, exposure to ultraviolet light and concomitant systemic disease, aging changes to the macula can result in loss of the ability to see details – even when wearing glasses.
Age-related macular degeneration is a common cause of vision loss in the Western world, and may occur in two forms, both of which can result in severe vision loss:
Atrophic (Dry) Macular Degeneration – Characterized by thinning of the delicate retina, with formation of yellow deposits called drusen, and sometime broad areas of degradation called geographic atrophy.
Exudative (Wet) Macular Degeneration – Involves the growth of abnormal “neovascular” fragile blood vessels that grow below the retina, leaking blood and fluid, and causing rapid visual loss. In recent years, this has been treated by intraocular injections of VEGF inhibitors, such as Avastin, Lucentis, Eyelea and VEGF Trap-Eye.
The AREDS and AREDS2 research by the National Eye Institute and others have proven the merit of high dose nutritional supplements in slowing (but not reversing) age-related macular degeneration.