Macular degeneration is an age-related eye disease that usually gets worse over time. It is a leading cause of permanent or severe vision loss in patients over 60 years old. At the center of the disease is the eye’s light-sensitive nerve tissue, known as the retina.
Macular degeneration occurs when the central retina or macula begins to wear down. The condition may not cause total blindness, but it can lead to serious vision problems.
There are two main types of AMD: dry and wet macular degeneration. Dry MD occurs when drusen or yellow deposits form in the macula. Small or few drusen may not result in vision changes. But as they grow and become more numerous, the drusen can distort or dim the vision.
Wet MD occurs when blood vessels emerge under the macula. They leak blood and fluid into the retina, resulting in distorted vision. The patient loses central vision and blind spots. Eventually, the leaking vessels form a scar, resulting in central vision loss.
There is a rare type of macular degeneration known as Stargardt disease. Also called juvenile macular degeneration, the condition affects children and young adults.
During the early stages, patients do not notice any signs of the condition. In most cases, the condition is only detected when it worsens or when it affects both eyes. Some symptoms of the condition include reduced or less clear vision and blurry or dark areas in the central vision. Another symptom is poor color perception. If you experience any of the symptoms, it is important to visit an eye specialist as soon as possible.
In most cases, doctors can detect signs of AMD and drusen during routine eye examinations. The eye tests can also show pigment clumping. To diagnose the condition, they use an Amsler grid. The grid has straight lines, but if they appear wavy or lines are missing, the patient may have MD.
Doctors also find AMD using angiography. This procedure involves the use of a special dye that they inject into a vein. The dye helps detect signs of leaking blood or fluid.
They also use the OCT procedure in the diagnosis of this condition.
Early diagnosis and treatment of AMD can help slow the development of the condition or make it less severe. There is no cure, but there are several treatments for AMD. The treatments include anti-angiogenesis medications, laser therapy, photodynamic laser therapy, and low vision aids.
Low vision aids are devices that help create larger images of objects. They help AMD patients make better use of the remaining vision. Researchers are currently looking into new treatments that include submacular surgery and retinal translocation.
Studies have shown that dry AMD patients can benefit from taking certain supplements. Vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, copper, and zeaxanthin supplements can help slow the progression of the disease.
Most people only experience partial vision loss from AMD, allowing them to continue with their daily activities. If you have dry MD, you can maintain most of your vision. Wet MD is more severe, and you may need several treatments to maintain good vision.
For more on diagnosing and treating macular degeneration, visit Wellesley Hills Eye Care at our office in Wellesley, Massachusetts. You can call (781) 501-9120 today to schedule an appointment.