What Is Macular Degeneration
Macular Degeneration is the name given to the group of eye diseases that affect the retina, causing progressive loss of the central (reading) vision. It is caused by damage to the nerves in your eye It never causes complete blindness as the surrounding (side) vision remains normal, but impairs a person’s ability to read, recognise faces, drive, and makes it difficult to recognise colours and contrasts.
Macular degeneration commonly affects people over 50 years of age and is referred to as ‘age-related macular degeneration’ or AMD. There is currently no cure for AMD, and treatment efforts are directed at maintaining useful central vision for as long as possible
Types of Macular Degeneration
There are two types of macular degeneration: Dry AMD and Wet AMD
Dry AMD (also called non-exudative AMD) is the most common form, affecting. 80-90% of AMD patients.
Dry AMD is due to an accumulation of proteins in the macula that causes the retinal cells above them to lose function. These protein deposits are called drusen. Most patients with dry AMD notice a gradual, painless loss of vision that progresses with time.
Wet AMD (also called exudative AMD) is a more visually threatening condition and accounts for 10-20% of AMD cases.
Wet AMD is caused by leaky blood vessels in the retina. These abnormal blood vessels may leak fluids or blood into the back of the eye.
Patients with wet AMD typically experience more significant vision loss than those with dry AMD. The vision loss caused by wet AMD is often noticed by the patient once the condition is very serious.
In some cases, wet AMD can cause sudden vision loss.
Causes of Macular Degeneration
Though macular degeneration is associated with aging, research suggests there also may be a genetic component to the disease. Researchers have noted a strong association between development of AMD and presence of a variant gene.
Some researchers believe that over-exposure to sunlight also may be a contributing factor in development of macular degeneration, but this theory has not been proven conclusively.
Risk factors for developing macular degeneration include:
- Gender (AMC affects more women than men)
- Obesity and inactivity
- Cardiovascular Disease
Additional symptoms include difficulty seeing details in poor lighting conditions and glare sensitivity.
Many patients do not notice the symptoms of AMD if they are present in only one eye or more pronounced in one eye than the other. When viewing with both eyes simultaneously the symptoms of blur and distortion may not be noticed.
- A gradual decline in the ability to see objects clearly
- Distorted vision
- Dark or empty spaces blocking the central field of vision
- Dimming of colour vision
- Visual hallucinations
Treatment for Mascular Degeneration
There is no cure for macular degeneration, but some treatments may delay its progression or even improve vision.
Treatments for macular degeneration depend on whether the disease is in its early-stage dry form or in the more advanced wet form.
For dry AMD, there are no FDA-approved treatments, but nutritional supplements containing antioxidant vitamins can reduce the risk of dry AMD progressing to sight-threatening wet AMD.
For wet AMD, the goal of most treatments is to shrink or stop abnormal blood vessel growth and prevent the leakage of fluid into the retina. The first line of treatment is the injection of a medication (Avastin, Lucentis or Eylea) directly into the affected eye. Additional medical and laser procedures are also available to treat wet AMD.
For AMD patients who have suffered any degree of vision loss, low vision devices such as magnifiers, telescopes and apps on digital devices can help to maximize vision potential.
If you are experiencing vision problems, speak to our professional doctors at Elm Rd. and they will advise if you need to make an appointment with an optometrist.