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What is Macular Degeneration?

Age related Macular Degeneration or AMD is an eye condition that is relatively common around people age 50 or older. Essentially, the part of the eye that provides sharp, central vision (called the macula) is destroyed.

Risk factors

  • Being age 50 or older
  • Smoking - can increase risk for developing AMD two-fold
  • Race - Caucasians are much more likely to get AMD than African Americans
  • Family History - Those who have a history of AMD in he family are at a much higher risk of developing the disease

Lifestyle changes may help!

  • Avoid smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintaining normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Eat a diet rich in green, leafy vegetables, as well as fish

What are the two main types?

Wet AMD

Wet AMD occurs in approximately 10 percent of patients with AMD. This type is more severe than the dry type. It occurs when abnormal blood vessels behind the retina start to grow under the macula. The vessels are often fragile and leak blood and fluid which causes the macula to swell impending immediate damage. Although the loss of central vision can happen rapidly, eye care professionals may potentially slow down the progression of wet AMD if detected before severe vision loss occurs.

Dry AMD

Dry AMD is the most common form of AMD. It occurs when light-sensitive cells in the macula break down. This will gradually blur vision in the affected eye. It may manifest as a blurred spot in the center of a person’s vision. Over time, central vision will slowly be lost as the macula continues to deteriorate. It is considered to be the early and intermediate stages of AMD.

When to Consult your Doctor

Wet AMD

Signs and Symptoms

  • Very few symptoms in the early stages
  • In later stages, blurred vision is most common
  • Objects may not appear to be as bright as they used to be
  • Difficulty recognizing faces
  • More light may be necessary for reading and doing other tasks

Dry AMD

Signs and Symptoms

  • During early stages, straight lines may appear wavy
  • A blind spot may develop (loss of central vision)
  • if you experience either of these symptoms contact your eye care professional immediately since it may be treatable before severe vision loss occurs.

Treatment Options for AMD

Wet AMD

Injections

One potential treatment is to inject drugs into the eye. With wet AMD, abnormally high levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) are secreted in the eyes. This promotes the growth of the abnormal blood vessels. Using an anti-VEGF injection can block this effect. Multiple injections may be needed and before each injection the eye will be numbed and cleaned with antiseptics. Antibiotic drops may also be prescribed to prevent infection.

Photodynamic Therapy

This involves laser treatments to affected areas of the retina. Verteprofin (a drug) is injected into the arm. The drug then runs through all the blood vessels in the body. A laser beam is then shined onto the abnormal vessels in the eye to activate the drug. The drug will then destroy the new, abnormal blood vessels which will slow the rate of vision loss. The procedure takes about 20 minutes.

Laser Surgery 

Certain cases of wet AMD can be treated with laser surgery. This is often less common than other treatments. This treatment is performed in a doctor’s office or eye clinic. An intense beam of light is aimed at the new, abnormal blood vessels to destroy them. Unfortunately, laser treatment may also destroy some healthy tissue and cause more blurred vision.

Dry AMD

Unfortunately there is no current treatment for Dry AMD. However, dry AMD is often slowly progressive and most patients are able to live a relatively normal life. In most cases, one eye is affected more than the other. High doses of antioxidants and zinc may reduce the risk of developing advanced AMD and experiencing severe vision loss. The findings were based on a 10-year clinical trial called the AREDS or Age Related Eye Disease Study. There are also new genetic screening tests available to determine the likelihood of developing AMD.

Recommendations

  • 500 mg Vitamin C
  • 400 IU of Vitamin E
  • 15 mg of beta-carotene (often labeled as 25,000 IU of vitamin A)
  • 80 mg of zinc as zinc oxide
  • 2 mg of Copper as cupric oxide

(This page was adapted from the National Eye Institute)

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