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Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that attacks the central portion of the retina, causing it to deteriorate and leading to severe vision loss. Considered to be an incurable though treatable condition, it is most common in people over 50 years of age, though it is occasionally diagnosed in younger adults. Macular degeneration, which can occur in one or both eyes, is estimated to affect 15 million people in North America alone. Studies show that nearly 15% of adults between 70 and 79 suffer from either advanced or intermediate age-related macular degeneration.
The disease affects the macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for the sharp, detailed vision necessary for reading or driving. It also controls our ability to recognize colors or faces, as well as to pick out the fine detail in various objects. As you would expect, this can greatly compromise a person’s quality of life.
Types of Macular Degeneration
The classifications for macular degeneration are dry (non-neovascular) and wet (neovascular). The former accounts for approximately 85-90% of the confirmed cases.
With dry macular degeneration, patients often have trouble seeing color and fine details. The disease can progress to where it becomes the wet form, in which central vision loss or blind spots can progress swiftly, sometimes within weeks or even days. The reason for this is that, with wet macular degeneration, new blood vessels develop beneath the retina and begin to leak blood and fluid. This can result in permanent central vision damage.
Because it is a degenerative disease, various changes occur to the patient’s vision over time. Shadowy areas may appear in the central line of vision, or eyesight may become fuzzy or distorted. As the disease advances, these areas usually expand in size, creating serious blind spots. Treatment should be sought long before these changes have occurred.
Evaluation and Risk
A regular eye exam often can detect the early signs of macular degeneration, so it is wise to have routine checkups with a qualified ophthalmologist, such as those at Advanced Eye Surgery Clinic. Should any signs of the condition be found, further evaluation is typically recommended through testing with an Amsler grid. This tool is used to effectively identify damage to the macula or the optic nerve.
Macular degeneration can often be traced to age-related deterioration of the eye tissue affecting your central vision. It can also be due – in nearly 50% of the cases – to genetic factors, specifically a gene variant called factor H. Though risk for all patients increases with age, those most commonly afflicted are females and Caucasians.
Here are some other habits or characteristics that increase your risk for this debilitating disease:
- Obesity and/or high fat diet
- Sustained sun exposure
- High blood pressure
- Lighter eye color
- Side effects from certain drugs
Though macular degeneration isn’t completely avoidable, you can greatly decrease your risks through an active, healthy lifestyle that also includes routine eye examinations. Regular exercise and elimination of tobacco, combined with a good, balanced diet of nutritious foods that enhance vision, can play important roles in maintaining disease-free vision.
Treatment for Macular Degeneration
If you or a loved one should receive a diagnosis of macular degeneration, do not despair. Though there is no cure for it, there are several treatment options available to you that could help you to maintain your vision. The treatment recommended will, of course, depend upon the severity of your condition and how much permanent vision loss has already taken place.
We can administer intraocular injections of FDA-approved Avastin, Eylea and Lucentis, which are designed to prevent additional blood vessel growth, one of the key features of wet macular degeneration. These medications are injected monthly, into the vitreous, the gel-like substance of the eye that helps to give it its round shape.
Patients also find good results from vitamin and mineral supplements containing AREDS (Age-Related Eye Disease Study) formulas that help to remove toxic substance buildup found in the advanced stages of macular degeneration.
Working Side-by-Side for Solutions
While it is always discouraging and alarming to get a diagnosis for macular degeneration, modern medicine relating to eye health is always evolving and improving. In the meantime, our innovative ophthalmological team here at Advanced Eye Surgery Clinic can work with you to manage and control your condition so that you continue to live an active, fulfilling life.