Wet Macular Degeneration

What is a Wet Macular Degeneration?

Wet macular degeneration is just one type of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common condition that causes vision loss and even blindness for those in their fifties and sixties. The condition causes the macula—a part of the retina that is responsible for center vision and acuity—to become thinner and break down.

There are two categories of AMD: wet and dry. While dry AMD is more mild and slow-growing, the wet is more serious because its symptoms can occur suddenly and be severe.

Wet macular degeneration is caused by hemorrhaging vessels beneath the retina. The hemorrhaging can then in turn cause cells in the retina to die, thus creating distortions and even blindness. Hemorrhaging can be caused by irregular blood vessel growth, but it can also be caused by fluid buildup.

Like dry macular degeneration, the development of wet macular degeneration can be related to a number of factors, such as genetic predispositions, certain habits, and certain diseases. For instance, abnormalities in chromosome 10 and abnormalities in genes ARMS2, HTRA1, and CFH can all increases the likelihood of wet AMD. If a person is obese or smokes regularly, he or she is at a higher risk to develop the condition.

What are the Symptoms of Wet Macular Degeneration?

Because wet macular degeneration can appear and progress more rapidly that dry macular degeneration, it is imperative that at-risk patients pay attention to any vision changes and see an ophthalmologist  regularly.

Some signs to watch out for include, blind spots, difficulty reading, difficulty adjusting to changing light levels, difficulty seeing in dim light, blurriness or distortion in central vision, and difficulty seeing color brightness and saturation.

Wet Macular Degeneration Causes

Wet macular degeneration is caused by abnormal blood vessels within the eye which leak fluid or blood into the macula, which is part of the retina. The macula is responsible for central vision, which is why wet macular degeneration causes blurred vision or blind spots.

The wet type of macular degeneration usually develops after an individual has had the dry, less severe, type of the condition. Since it is a condition which occurs gradually, it is most common among people aged 65 and over. However, there are other factors involved in the cause of the wet macular degeneration.

For one, there is a genetic component to the illness. There are several genes identified to cause the condition and those with a family history of it are more likely to develop it themselves. It’s also known that smoking and obesity increase the risk of macular degeneration. Obesity in particular is problematic, because those with a mild version of the condition are more likely to see the condition worsen at a rapid rate.

Finally, since wet macular degeneration is caused by abnormal blood vessel growth, it appears to be tied in with cardiovascular disease. Anybody with an illness which affects the heart and blood vessels is at a higher risk of developing wet macular degeneration.

How is a Wet Macular Degeneration Treated?

Although wet macular degeneration is progressive, the condition can be improved with some lifestyle changes, such as getting to a healthy BMI, eating a diet full of vitamins and minerals, quitting bad habits like smoking, and managing any chronic diseases. If blindness occurs, low vision therapists and other eye specialists can help patients get in touch with resources such as braille training and occupational therapies to increase independence and navigation.

If the condition hasn’t progressed too much, then laser treatment or injections that reduce blood vessel overgrowth can be used. Lastly, a doctor can provide external appliances for patients, like telescopic glasses.

Wet Macular Degeneration Prevention

Since wet macular degeneration usually begins as dry macular degeneration, those who have been diagnosed with the dry type may wish to take steps to reduce their risk of developing the wet type. Those who smoke should quit, and people who are overweight or obese should try to lose weight to slow down the progression of the condition.

Routine eye examinations can help to spot early signs of wet macular degeneration in those with the dry type, which could allow for early treatment in an attempt slow or stop progression. Regular eye exams are also very important for everyone, even if they believe their eyes to be in good health, because they might be able to detect early signs of dry macular degeneration and prevent it from developing into the wet type.

Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
September 09, 2017