Macular degeneration is a condition linked with aging, so it is often called Age-Related Degeneration (AMD)
This condition is a leading cause of legal blindness in people over 60. A person with Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) can gradually or suddenly lose vision in the central part of the retina, called the macula. AMD doesn’t hurt, so it’s important to have regularly scheduled eye exams to determine if you are experiencing vision loss. You should be particularly concerned if you are over age 60, have high blood pressure (hypertension), smoke, or have a family history of AMD.
What causes it?
The exact causes of AMD are not known, but research indicates that the pigment in the macula becomes depleted over time. This may be caused by free radicals found in high concentrations in the macula that can harm cell membranes. Researchers believe that antioxidant compounds found in certain foods (kale, collard greens, spinach, turnip greens, broccoli, yellow corn, persimmons, tangerines) and ocular vitamins reduce the effect of free radicals on the macula. There are two types of AMD, called “dry” and “wet.” Most people who have AMD develop the dry form of the disease and will not lose central vision. However, the dry form of macular degeneration can lead to wet. Although only about 10% of people with AMD develop the wet form, they make up the majority of those who experience serious vision loss.
How is it treated?
- Photodynamic laser therapy: A two-step treatment in which a light-sensitive drug is injected into the bloodstream to be absorbed by the abnormal blood vessels in the eye. The doctor then shines a cold laser into the eye to activate the drug, damaging the abnormal blood vessels.
- Low vision aids: Devices that have special lenses or electronic systems produce enlarged images or nearby objects. They help people who have vision loss from AMD make the most of their remaining vision.
- Laser therapy: High-energy laser light can sometimes be used to destroy actively growing abnormal blood vessels that occur in macular degeneration.
- Diet: Taking ocular vitamins or eating specific foods cannot reverse the damage caused by AMD, but it may prevent or slow the progression of AMD.
- Intraocular injections: A drug is injected directly into the eye on a monthly basis. This treatment is helpful for patients with the wet form of AMD.
- Anti-angiogenesis drugs: New drugs are being used to slow down or prevent the growth of abnormal blood vessels within the eye.
- Experimental treatments: Techniques under investigation include the insertion of a “retinal chip” to restore vision loss.
Is there a cure?
There is no cure, but the disease can be managed. Our practice is experienced in monitoring your eye health and recommending treatment if it is needed. Good eye health-care can minimize the damage that AMD can do to your vision.
What can I do?
- Contact us if you notice that straight lines appear wavy, it’s difficult to distinguish colors, you can’t see details (faces or words in a book), or dark or empty spots block the center of your vision.
- Eat large amounts of kale, collard greens, spinach, turnip greens, broccoli, yellow corn, persimmons, and tangerines, or take ocular vitamins recommended by our office.
- If you smoke, quit smoking. Speak to your family physician about a smoking cessation program.
- Cooperate with any treatments that are recommended.
- Come in for regular eye examinations.