Macular degeneration is a common, painless eye condition in which the central portion of the retina deteriorates and does not function adequately. The diagnosis of macular degeneration is becoming increasingly common due to patient awareness, physician access, groundbreaking improvements in treatment, and the relentless graying of the population. These factors exponentially increases the percentage of the population at risk for this condition.
Though the disease is more common in people over 60, it’s possible to develop symptoms as young as age 40. Common symptoms include blurry vision and/or straight objects appearing wavy. Small blind spots may also appear in a person’s central vision.
Macular degeneration, also called age-related macular degeneration, AMD, ARMD, or the now discarded term senile macular degeneration (SMD). In recent years there has been an increase in seniors who experience vision loss as a result of macular degeneration. The macula is the part of the retina responsible for the sharp, central vision needed to read, drive or see fine details. Because the macula is primarily affected in macular degeneration, central vision loss may occur.
Besides affecting older populations, AMD occurs more frequently in whites and females. The disease also can result as a side effect of some drugs, and it seems to run in families. Eye specialists remind people that there are several risk factors for macular degeneration including smoking, high blood pressure, having a family member with the disease, obesity and people with lighter eye color. Some eye specialists believe that over exposure to sunlight can contribute to degeneration of the macula as well, though this idea has not been definitely proven.
What Treatment is Available?
There are two types of macular degeneration: dry (non-neovascular) and wet (neovascular).
Wet AMD or Neovascular: occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow from the choroid (the layer of blood vessels between the retina and the outer firm coat of the eye called the sclera) into the macular portion of the retina. The blood and fluid raise the macula from its normal place at the back of the eye and interfere with the retina’s function and causes the central vision to blur. Under these circumstances, vision loss may be rapid and severe.
Wet AMD can be treated with laser surgery, photodynamic therapy, and injections into the eye. None of these treatments are a permanent cure for wet AMD. The disease and loss of vision may progress despite treatment. In patients with far advanced macular degeneration on both eyes, surgery to implant a telescopic lens in one eye is an option.
People with wet macular degeneration generally notice more rapid and severe changes in their vision. It is caused by abnormal blood vessels at the back of the eye which leak fluid or blood, creating permanent tissue damage. The skilled surgeons at Fillmore Eye Clinic may use laser surgery or medications to stop the bleeding and to prevent further retinal damage.
Dry AMD or Non-Neovascular: the light sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down. With less of the macula functioning, central vision diminishes. Dry AMD often occurs in just one eye at first. Later, the other eye can be affected. The cause of dry AMD is unknown. Dry AMD has three stages, early, intermediate, or advanced, all of which may occur in one or both eyes. People with early AMD have either several small drusen or a few medium-sized drusen. At this stage, there are no symptoms and no vision loss.
There is currently no treatment available to reverse dry macular degeneration. However, dry macular degeneration is usually slowly progressive and most patients with this condition are able to live relatively normal, productive lives with the help of vision aids.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of Macular Degeneration, please give Fillmore Eye Clinic a call today and schedule an appointment.