Eye Diseases / Macular Degeneration

Age Related Macular Degeneration

What is age-related Macular degeneration?

Dr Joel George OphthalmologistMacular degeneration (AMD) is a common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 60.  AMD can cause the loss of sharp central vision in one or both eyes.  With AMD, you may have no obvious vision loss or you may have one or more of the following vision problems:

  • Fuzzy or blurry areas
  • Distorted lines and wavy edges
  • Faded color vision
  • Dark spots in your central vision
  • Vision that varies from day to day

The macula is the part of the eye that allows us to see fine detail and is also responsible for your central, or head-on vision. Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a disease associated with aging that gradually destroys central vision. When this area of the back portion of the eye becomes diseased or damaged, you may experience vision loss and your ability to perform normal activities such as reading or driving may be impeded.

AMD causes no pain and in some cases advances so slowly that some people notice very little change in their vision. AMD is the most common form of macular degeneration. The tissue of the macula is extremely sensitive, and subject to deterioration as we age. The gradual deterioration leads to a breakdown of the macula, and subsequent loss of central vision. AMD is the leading cause of blindness among people over the age of 65.

AMD occurs in two forms: Wet and Dry.

The most common form of AMD is Dry, which exists when the tissue of the macula breaks down and forms debris within and under the retina that gradually blocks your vision. It is a process that progresses over time, eventually causing blurred vision when looking straight ahead. There is no cure for Dry AMD, but there are several treatments that could forestall its progression.

Wet AMD can occur when the body tries to grow new blood vessels to supply blood to the damaged tissue of the macula. These vessels are usually weak and thin, and they can leak out blood into the retina. This is called Wet AMD and is a very serious condition that can result in rapid vision loss. Fortunately, if Wet AMD is detected early enough it is usually treatable with medication or laser surgery.

Symptoms associated with AMD manifest themselves as irregularities in the way you see when you look directly at an object. The most common symptoms of AMD include difficulty reading, having objects in your direct line of sight appear blurry while other images remain clear, having a dark sport or circle appear in the center of your vision or seeing straight lines that appear wavy.

AMD is a slow progressing disease and it is common to go years without experiencing any symptoms. Fortunately, general eye exams can usually detect early signs of the disease, in which case preventative measures can be taken that will slow down any future vision loss.

As we age, the risk for developing AMD increases. That is why the the doctors of Thurmond Eye Associates encourage everyone over the age of 60 to maintain a regular and periodic eye exam schedule to ensure early detection and prevention of vision loss.

One of the treatments for Dry AMD is an all-natural supplement of vitamins and nutrients. Studies have shown that consuming high levels of beta-carotene, Vitamins C and E, and zinc oxide, can reduce progression by more than 25%.

In addition to vitamin supplements, a therapeutic option is to simply use special visual aids such as lights and glasses designed for AMD, and sunglasses that deflect harmful UV rays that can speed up vision loss.

Lucentis, Avastin and Eylea are anti-VEGF drugs used to treat Wet AMD. These medications are FDA-approved drug for injection into the effected area to reduce or stop abnormal blood vessel growth. With the use of these agents, studies have shown a significant decrease in the growth and leakage of abnormal blood vessels, and in some cases, even reversal of vision loss.

Laser Therapy

In more severe Wet AMD cases, a patient may have to undergo laser therapy to cauterize the vessels, stop the bleeding and to halt vision loss. It is an effective treatment, but not permanent. Once applied, additional remedies such as medication may be required.