Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects more than six million people worldwide. It is the fourth leading cause of blindness globally. Although it is fairly rare until after the age of 80, it is the single most common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 50.
If you are 50 or over, you should get your eyes checked for AMD. Keep in mind that vision loss and blindness are not actually the same thing. AMD typically leads to blurred spots in the vision and sometimes scotoma, AKA “blind spots.”
The eye turns light into electrical signals that the optic nerve delivers directly to the brain. There are several parts of the eye involved in the process. A problem with any of these parts can cause eyesight problems.
The macula is a small part of the retina. It is responsible for sharp, central vision. As it degenerates, vision can become distorted, dark, or blurry.
The Amsler grid is a commonly used tool for assessing for AMD and for assessing for further degeneration. People with normal vision will see a grid. Those with AMD will see a distortion in the grid as they focus on a point in the grid with just one eye.
Age is a major risk for this condition. The older you are, the more likely you are to develop it. About 0.4 percent of people between ages 50 and 60 have this condition, but the figures get steadily worse past the age of 60. In Americans over the age of 80, nearly 12 percent have AMD.
But age is not the only risk factor. Smokers are at an increased risk as well. Other risk factors include a history of heart disease, a family history of AMD and elevated serum lipids. Excess exposure to bright sun, especially harmful UV rays, also increases your risk of developing AMD.
Protect Your Eye Health
You can reduce your risk of developing AMD by not smoking (or quitting as soon as possible) and keeping both blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control. Never stare directly into the sun for any reason without the right protection. Protect your eyes from bright sunlight, especially if you are sensitive to light. Also, eat a healthy diet that contains fish and is rich in leafy green vegetables.
If you have already been diagnosed with AMD, the same efforts to reduce your risk can help slow the progression. About 90 percent of cases are known as dry AMD. This is usually a less serious form of the condition. It can progress into wet AMD, which is often a more serious condition. It is well worth your while to slow the progression as much as you possibly can.
This also gets called non-exudative AMD. As noted above, it accounts for the vast majority of cases and is usually less severe.
As the body slows down, the transport of wastes out of the retina and nutrients into the retina via the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) also slows down. The result is an accumulation of yellowish deposits called drusen.
This may be accompanied by thinning of the macula, which is associated with visual deterioration. This combination of events can create one or more scotoma, commonly called blind spots. This is something of a misnomer because they may be areas of low or distorted vision rather than a complete lack of vision.
Blind spots are really due to a trick of the brain. You can think of it as software trying to compensate for defective hardware and filling in missing information. Patients are typically unaware of a scotoma. Things simply “disappear” or seem to go missing in an unexpected and baffling manner, but they do not perceive there to be a hole or black spot in their field of vision.
In addition to managing your risk factors, you can opt for vitamin therapy. That is the only known treatment for dry AMD. Like with managing your risk factors, it does not cure the condition. It merely slows the deterioration.
Based on the Age-Related Eye Disease studies (AREDS) by the National Eye Institute, the following supplements and doses are recommended as a course of treatment if you have dry AMD:
- Copper (2 mg)
- Vitamin C (500 mg)
- Vitamin E (400 IU)
- Lutein (10 mg)
- Zeaxanthin (2 mg)
- Zinc (80 mg)
Monitoring is the first line of defense for dry AMD. Your eye doctor should be promptly notified if you have a diagnosis of AMD and notice any new changes in your vision.
If you are experiencing Macular Degeneration, Campus Eye Group can help you monitor it. Regular eye exams, combined with self-monitoring, are the standard approach to handling this condition.
Monitoring is important because dry AMD can turn into wet AMD. There are treatments for wet AMD, but they are most effective if instituted promptly. Time is of the essence. The sooner you know and act, the better your prognosis will be.
This also gets called Exudative AMD. It involves abnormal blood vessels leaking fluid into the macula.
Usually, the earliest sign of such fluid is distortion when viewing straight lines. it is not uncommon for patients to realize something is wrong when they notice straight lines in ordinary objects are warping, such as the mini-blinds in their office or a series of telephone poles as they drive past them.
But please don’t wait for such an indicator. This visual distortion is best detected early by periodically checking how each eye perceives an Amsler Grid. This is something you can do on your own, with or without a diagnosis of AMD.
If caught early enough, the blood vessel issues can be treated, limiting the damage. Without treatment, there is increased risk of macular scarring and permanent damage.
Treatment for Wet AMD
This condition can be treated with anti-angiogenic or anti-VEGF medications. People with wet AMD are known to have an excess of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). This excess causes the formation of new blood vessels where they don’t belong. Blocking this growth factor can help control the condition.
These drugs are generally injected at regular intervals. The frequency of injections can decrease if the condition stabilizes.
To learn more about Macular Degeneration please call us today to schedule a consultation with one of our trained professonials.