Macular Degeneration is a condition involving the macula which is the very back of the eye where all the light is focused.
The macula is composed of highly specialized nerve cells that convert light images into nerve impulses that are sent back to the brain. This governs our ability to see details and color.
As we age, the nerve cells in the macula gradually deteriorate. This is what we call “Macular Degeneration (or AMD).”
There are two forms of AMD – a “Dry” form and a “Wet” form. The Dry form is the most common and is characterized by loss of nerve cells leaving areas of the macula with non-functional tissue. Eventually, “bare spots” form which can create small blind spots in your vision. The Wet form is characterized by swelling and bleeding into the macula from abnormal blood vessels that have grown into “bare spots” in the macula. This can lead to severe vision loss, especially if a bad hemorrhage develops.
The primary risk factor for developing AMD is age. Other risk factors include smoking, family history, excessive sun exposure, chronic Hypertension and elevated cholesterol. AMD is relatively uncommon in Asians and Africans but quite common in people of northern European descent.
In the early stages of AMD there may not be any symptoms, but your eye doctor will observe changes in the macula. As the condition progresses you may note distortion of your central vision and require more light in order to see properly. Eventually, if you reach the end stage of AMD you will note a blind spot in the center of your vison. It is important to note that your peripheral vision is not affected by AMD so you will not go completely blind from this condition.
AMD is usually diagnosed by your eye doctor during your exam. There are also tests such as Fluorescein Angiography and Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) that are performed in the office that help stage the severity of the AMD and monitor response to treatment.
The treatment for AMD depends on the type. The Dry form is treated with nutritional supplements containing high levels of anti-oxidants*. This helps slow down the progression of the disease but does not cure it. Wet AMD is treated by injecting medicine in the eye that will cause the abnormal blood vessels to shrink and even disappear. This treatment is very successful but requires multiple injections and frequent follow-up. The good news is we not only can stabilize your vision but, in some situations, actually improve your vision.
Leading a healthy lifestyle and avoiding excess sun exposure are helpful in minimizing the risk of advanced AMD. To this extent, you should avoid smoking, wear sunglasses and a hat, and include a good amount of vegetables & fruits in your diet. Even with these measures your condition may progress so regular appointments with your eye doctor are important.
At Lakeside Ophthalmology Center, we have the technology and expertise to treat your Macular Degeneration allowing you to retain useful vision.
*We are currently recommending nutritional supplements containing Lutein and Zeexanthin along with Vitamins C & E, Zinc and Copper