Age Related Macular Degeneration
Macular Degeneration... What You Need to Know
Macular degeneration is damage to or breakdown of the macula of the eye. The macula is a small area at the back of the eye that allows us to see fine details clearly. Macular degeneration makes close work like threading a needle or reading a book, difficult or impossible. When the macula doesn't function correctly, we experience blurriness or darkness in the center of our vision.
Although macular degeneration reduces vision in the central part of the retina, it does not affect the eye's side or peripheral vision. For example, you could see a clock but not be able to tell what time it is. Macular degeneration alone does not result in total blindness. Most people continue to have some useful vision and are able to take care of themselves.
There are two forms of macular degeneration:
This is the most common form. In this type of macular degeneration, the delicate tissues of the macula become thinned and cease to function properly.
The Wet Type
This is less common, but is typically more damaging. The wet type of macular degeneration is caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels behind the macula. The abnormal blood vessels tend to hemorrhage or leak, with the result being the formation of scar tissue if left untreated. In some instances, the dry type of macular degeneration can turn into the wet type.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration:
- The loss of the ability to see objects clearly
- Vision that is noticeably distorted
- Straight lines appear wavy
- Objects may appear as the wrong shape or size
- The loss of clear, correct colors
- Difficulty reading or seeing objects up close
- A dark, empty area in the center of vision
Prevention / Treatment
Treatment for Dry Macular Degeneration
There is no form of treatment that is known to stop the progression of this type of macular degeneration, although vitamin supplements are often prescribed. Once the retinal tissues are affected, there is little that can be done to stop its slow progression and currently, nothing has been found effective to restore the loss of sight.
The newest treatment for wet AMD is Lucentis, a drug that was approved by the FDA in 2006. This drug inhibits the growth and leakage of abnormal blood vessels and it is the first treatment that has been shown to improve vision in some eyes rather than simply slowing the rate of vision loss. Lucentis is delivered through tiny injections in the eye, once a month for three months, with additional, less frequent injections, as needed, for one year or more. A similar drug, Avastin, is also commonly used for the treatment of wet AMD.
Other treatments include laser treatments and photodynamic therapy. These treatments are designed to seal the leaking blood vessels, halting the damage they can inflict upon the retina. These treatments are effective in slowing the progression of wet macular degeneration and are sometimes used in combination with Lucentis or Avastin. Research is underway to find new and more effective treatments for this condition.
If you’ve noticed change in your vision, or if you haven’t been to the office for a while and think you may be developing Age Related Macular Degeneration, please contact us to set up an apointment today.