WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD is the leading cause of blindness and vision loss for people over 60 years of age in the US.
There are 2 types of AMD: The "wet" form and the "dry" form.
Each year close to 200,000 new cases of the "wet" of AMD are diagnosed. This is the more severe form of the condition. New treatments are available for "wet" or neovascular AMD.
"Dry" or atrophic AMD is the more common form. The damage from the "dry form less severe than the "wet" form, but over time it can cause major vision loss.
Our Health Correspondent Anita Brikman spoke to Aziz Khanifar, MD an opthalmologist with the Retina Group of Washington about how to keep this age-related blindness at bay:
Dr. Khanifar says, "Macular degeneration affects the retina, which is the most important part of the inside of the eye. The tissue begins to break down, and when it breaks down people will lose their central vision."
Q: "There is something that's called "wet" or "dry" AMD, people hear that alot..."
Dr. Khanifar says, "The macular degeneration always begins as the "dry" type, and that's the tissue actually breaking down. 10 percent of the time patients can have small blood vessels grow underneath the retina. When that happens those blood vessels bleed very easily and fluid accumulates in the macular."
Q: "And I would think that makes it worse..."
Dr. Khanifar says, "That makes it much worse, that makes people see distortion, it's hard for people to read, hard to drive, very hard to do lots of things."
Q: "So a lot of our viewers out there are wondering 'what can I do to keep this from happening to me?'"
Dr. Khanifar says, "The strongest risks factors for macular degeneration are age and genetics. Those two things we cannot change at all. But we can also live a healthy lifestyle, eat lots of fresh fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, fish, nuts. Also, smokers are also 2 to 3 times more likely to have macular degeneration compared to people who do not smoke."
Q: "Is it better to get treatment right when you see the first signs?"
Dr. Khanifar says, "Absolutely, the sooner the better. If you have the "dry" type of macular degeneration, vitamins can be recommended to decrease the chances of getting the "wet" type."
Q: "I was reading about a tiny implantable telescope, that sounds like science fiction but do you all really do that?"
Dr. Khanifar says, "The telescope is really cool, its called the implantable mini telescope, IMT, and it is so tiny it can be delivered directly into the eye. Once its in the eye, everything that the patient sees in front of them will be magnified, and then they use the other eye for the peripheral vision. So it's really helpful in getting patients back some of the things they lost, because of their vision."
Q: "So there's the telescope and there are also medications?"
Dr. Khanifar says, "There are lots of medications the "wet" forms makes 90 percent of the permanent vision loss from macular degeneration, but the medications are great for stabilizing the disease 90 percent of the time and 30-40 percent of the time can improve vision.
For more information check out www.amd.org.