Wet macular degeneration, or exudative macular degeneration, is an advanced form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) which causes vision loss that gets worse over time (progressive). The macula is located in the central part of the back of the eye (retina) and helps a person see fine details and perform tasks such as reading and driving (sharp central vision). In all forms of AMD, damage to the macula leads to blurred or complete loss of central vision. In wet macular degeneration, abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the affected area of the macula (neovascularization). These new vessels are weak and leak blood and other important fluids. The affected areas then scar and affect vision.
Vision loss in wet macular degeneration is usually severe and rapid and only affects central vision, so affected people usually have normal vision on the edges of their eye (peripheral vision). Wet macular degeneration is the least common form of AMD, causing only 10 percent of all cases. Wet AMD typically starts off as dry macular degeneration, and then progresses to the more severe state.
The cause of wet macular degeneration is unclear. Age and genetics are the two most significant risk factors. Wet macular degeneration is usually found in adults over 55, and the risk increases with age. Smoking can also significantly increase the risk of developing the disorder. The condition is usually diagnosed by an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) who uses both a routine eye exam and special eye tests, such as optical coherence tomography (OCT), to look at images of the retina. There is no cure for wet macular degeneration, but good nutrition and protection from UV rays can help prevent symptoms. There are also medications available to help decrease or stop the formation of new blood vessels behind the macula. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with AMD, talk to a doctor about all treatment options. Support groups can provide additional information.