What is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is an eye disorder that makes it difficult to see fine details. The condition affects the macula, the part of the retina responsible for central vision. At first you may not have symptoms. As the disease progresses, your central vision can be affected.
Two types of macular degeneration (AMD) exist:
- Dry macular degeneration occurs when the macula becomes thin and becomes atrophic. Small yellow deposits, called drusen, form under the macula. As these drusen increase in size and number, the central vision tends to become worse. Most people with macular degeneration have the dry form.
- Wet macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula and retina (this is called choroidal neovascularization). These vessels can leak blood and fluid, damaging the macula. Vision loss in the central vision can occur very quickly. Only about 10 percent of people with macular degeneration have this form, but it causes most of the vision loss associated with the condition.
What causes Macular Degeneration?
Scientists aren’t sure what causes AMD. The disease is most common in people over 60, which is why it is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration.
What are the symptoms of Macular Degeneration?
The most common symptom in dry AMD is blurred vision. As the disease progresses, you may need more light to read or perform everyday tasks. The blurred spot in the center of vision gradually gets larger and darker. In the later stages, you may not be able to recognize faces until people are close to you.
The most common early symptom of wet macular degeneration is that straight lines appear distorted and wavy. You may also notice a small dark spot in the center of your vision that gradually gets larger.
AMD typically does not affect side (peripheral) vision. This is very important, because it means that complete vision loss is not typical for this disease.
What are my treatment options for Macular Degeneration?
No treatment exists for dry macular degeneration. However, a combination of antioxidants and zinc may slow the progression of the disease. Smokers should not use this treatment.
Our doctors recommend the AREDS 2 nutritional supplement for certain cases of macular degeneration. During your consultation with our office, we can discuss the best possible treatment regimen for your particular case.
Although there is no cure for wet AMD, treatments may include:
- Laser surgery (laser photocoagulation) : a small beam of light destroys the abnormal blood vessels.
- Photodynamic therapy : a light activates a drug that is injected into your body to destroy leaking blood vessels.
- Special medications that slow the formation of new blood vessels in the eye (anti-angiogenesis (anti-VEGF) therapy) : drugs such as bevacizumab (Avastin) and ranibizumab (Lucentis) are injected into the eye to stabilize or improve vision.
Low-vision aids (such as special lenses) and therapy can help improve your vision and quality of life.