Retinal degenerative diseases affect the delicate layer of tissue that lines the inside on the backside of the eye. This part of the eye – the retina – is vital for vision. About 1.5 million people around the world are affected by degenerative eye disorders or retinal diseases associated with aging. Retinal degeneration is a very large and diverse group of vision diseases. Although, aging is considered to be the major factor for retinal and macular degeneration, it can affect both the young and the old.

A number of vision loss disorders that fall under the category of retinal degeneration diseases are genetically inheritable. Some more common inherited conditions include:

  • Retinitis Pigmentosa
  • Choroideremia (mostly affects males)
  • Retinoschisis
  • Usher disease
  • Stargardt disease

Macular Degeneration

The macula is located in the central part of the retina. The macula is in charge for central vision and gives the ability to see fine detail in your direct line of sight. The macula in each eye is used to have a clear vision, allowing us to read, drive, recognize faces, and distinguish colors. Other areas of the retina are responsible for providing us with side vision and fine night vision.

Age related macular degeneration is the most common, among the many types of macular degeneration diseases. Age related macular degeneration or ARMD, slowly but eventually destroys the central vision, essential for looking at things clearly and more common daily chores. In some individuals, ARMD affects are so slow that they barely notice a change in their vision. Some may experience faster spreading of the disease eventually leading to permanent loss of vision in both eyes.

Types of Age Related Macular Degeneration Diseases

ARMD occurs in 2 forms. Dry age-related macular degeneration is the more ordinary type and is much slower in causing visual loss. Wet age-related macular degeneration is less common but faster in devastating central vision loss.

Wet ARMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels develop from the choroid (layer of blood vessels between the retina and the sclera). These blood vessels are very delicate and tend to leak blood and fluid often. Causing blurry vision, the blood and fluid raise the level of the macula from its normal location, also interfering with other retinal functions. Wet ARMD generally leads to more severe vision loss than the dry form. All people who have dry ARMD are at risk for development of the wet form.

In dry ARMD, the light sensitive cells in the macula slowly and gradually die down. With less of the macula functioning, central vision weakens. The causes of dry ARMD are unknown. Dry ARMD often occurs in just one eye at first. Although later, the other eye can get affected too. Dry ARMD has three stages, early, intermediate, or advanced, all of which may occur in one or both eyes. Individuals with early ARMD have either several small drusen (yellow deposits under the retina mostly found in people over 60 years) or a few medium-sized drusen. At this point, there are no indications and no vision loss.

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