The retina lines the back of the eye like the film of a camera. Light is focused through the front of the eye onto the central part of the retina - the macula. The macula is responsible for detailed vision. The macula is only a few millimeters in length but has the highest concentration of cells in the retina. These light-sensitive cells are called photoreceptors and are responsible for converting light into electricity. The densely packed photoreceptor cells of the macula allow the clear vision necessary for reading, identifying faces, and driving. Macular degeneration is the result of damage to the photoreceptor cells of the retina. Much of this damage is the result of injury to the support cells of the retina - the Retinal Pigment Epithelium.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) remains the leading cause of blindness in developed countries around the world. AMD comes in two forms. In the dry form of AMD (dry AMD), tiny yellow deposits develop beneath the retina, called drusen. Areas of thinning, called atrophy, may also occur. Approximately 10% of patients with dry macular degeneration will experience enough damage to develop the second form of the disease, called wet macular degeneration (wet AMD). In this form, abnormal blood vessels grow beneath the retina in an effort to bring more nutrients to the diseased tissues. However, these abnormal vessels often leak and form scar tissue. This can be the cause of permanent central vision loss if left untreated.
While macular degeneration cannot be cured, it can be slowed, even stopped and progression may be prevented. Optimal vitamin supplements are one of the only proven ways to prevent progression of the disease.