Macular Degeneration is a general term that describes a series of conditions that affect a specific part of your retina called the macula.
The macula is responsible for your central, or head-on vision. Should this area become diseased or damaged, a person can experience loss of their direct vision. This will directly affect their ability to perform normal activities such as reading or driving. Imagine looking at a piece of art and only seeing the frame.
While Macular Degeneration is a condition that cannot be cured, there are several ways to slow the process and save your vision. But before we discuss treatment, let’s take some time to learn more about the condition.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Age related Macular Degeneration is the most common form of macular degeneration, and is an unfortunate side-effect of the aging process. The tissue of the macula is extremely sensitive and subject to deterioration as we age. The gradual deterioration leads to a breakdown of the macula and subsequent loss of central vision. AMD is a common disease among seniors and can be serious if not treated. In fact, AMD is the leading cause of blindness amongst people over the age of 65.
There are two specific types of AMD: Dry AMD and Wet AMD.
Types of AMD
Dry AMD is the more common form of AMD, accounting for 9 out of 10 cases of the disease. Dry AMD exists when the tissue of the macula breaks down and forms debris that gradually blocks your vision. It is a process that progresses over time, causing eventual blurriness looking forward. There is no cure for Dry AMD, but there are several treatments that can dramatically slow down the progression and protect your vision.
In rare cases, the body will try to grow new blood vessels to supply blood to the damaged tissue of the macula. These vessels are usually weak and thin, and they can leak out blood into the retina. This is called Wet AMD and is a very serious condition that can result in rapid vision loss. It should go without saying that if you experience any rapid vision loss, please contact your doctor immediately. If Wet AMD is detected early enough it is usually treatable with surgery and medication.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
Since macular degeneration affects your central vision, all symptoms will have to do with irregularities in the way you see when you look directly at an object.
Common symptoms include:
- Trouble reading
- Objects in your direct line of sight appear blurry, while peripheral objects remain clear
- A black spot or dark circle in the center of your vision
- Straight lines appear wavy
AMD is a slow-progressing disease that usually only affects one eye at a time, and it is common for someone to go years without experiencing any symptoms. Fortunately, general eye exams can usually detect early signs of the disease, in which case preventative measures can be taken that will slow down any future vision loss.
The risk for developing AMD increases with age, and it is essential for anyone over the age of 60 to maintain a rigorous eye exam schedule to ensure early detection and prevention of vision loss.
Macular Degeneration Treatment
There have been great advancements in the treatment of AMD, some that can even reverse the damage it causes. Although the condition is incurable, if detected early treatment is easy and effective.
Treatment for Dry AMD
Interestingly enough, the most effective treatment for Dry AMD is an all-natural supplement of vitamins and nutrients. Studies have shown that consuming high levels of beta-carotene, Vitamins C and E, and zinc oxide can reduce progression by more than 25%.
Besides vitamins, the next best treatment is to simply use special visual aids such as lights and glasses designed for AMD and sunglasses that deflect harmful UV rays that can speed up vision loss.
Treatment for Wet AMD
At Victoria Eye Center, we offer two injection treatment options for Wet AMD to help patients regain their vision:
a prescription medication that is injected into the eye to stop abnormal blood vessel growth. Studies show immediate stoppage of growth, and in some cases, even reversal of vision loss.
Lucentis is a recently FDA-approved drug that, when injected directly into the eye, stops abnormal blood vessel growth. Lucentis is an exciting development in the treatment of AMD, as studies show immediate stoppage of growth, and in some cases, even reversal of vision loss.