Macular Degeneration Retina Disease
Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of irreversible central vision loss that affects more than 10 million Americans. Age-related macular degeneration is the most common, degenerative eye condition in people aged 60 and older. It destroys central vision, which is vital to performing everyday activities like reading, driving and recognizing faces. A diagnosis of AMD is life changing, making every day activities challenging, altering lifestyle, and impacting independence and perspective.
What is the macula?
The macula is in the center of the retina at the back of the eye. The macula is responsible for central vision and the ability to see detail. It contains light sensitive nerve cells that detect light and send signals to the brain which are decoded into images.
What is AMD?
AMD is a degenerative eye condition that results in the death of the light sensitive cells in the macula which interferes with sharp, central vision. The result is a blind spot in the middle of your visual field. There are two types – dry AMD and wet AMD.
Dry AMD is common affecting 80% of people with AMD. With age, clumps of proteins called drusen form on the macula causing it to thin and dry out. The macula deteriorates, resulting in substantial functional disabilities. It is less severe than wet AMD. With wet AMD blind spots are common and vision loss is slower.
Wet AMD is not as common but is more serious. In 10-20% of cases dry AMD turn into wet AMD. Wet AMD is caused by the abnormal growth of blood vessels in the macula that leak fluid or blood scarring of the macula and causing a total loss of central vision.
What are the symptoms of AMD?
A loss of central vision is the primary symptom. AMD is painless. It also usually occurs in both eyes. People with early dry AMD may have blurred vision, need more light to read, and have difficulty seeing details including recognizing faces and words. In advanced cases, patients can lose central vision.
People with Wet AMD may have no symptoms until their vision blurs. However, the symptoms of dry AMD are common to wet AMD as well. In addition, a hallmark of wet AMD is a distortion of vision which causes a straight line to appear crooked or wavy.
What causes AMD?
We do not know the cause of AMD, but we do know that certain risk factors cause development of AMD.
What are the risk factors for AMD?
- People over age 60.
- A family history of AMD
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
If you have any of these risk factors, it is in your best interest to schedule an appointment with Union Square Eye Care immediately. Treatments for wet AMD can halt vision loss. The earlier you receive a diagnosis, the better your chance of protecting your vision. Additionally, you can control some of these risk factors.
How is AMD diagnosed?
At Union Square Eye Care, our eye doctors will conduct a complete eye examination (including a dilated evaluation of the retina) to examine the back of the eye with special instruments that will identify retinal diseases such as macular degeneration.
During this essential examination, your Union Square eye doctor will also use specific eye and vision tests to look for the presence of drusen, those tiny clumps of protein that lodge on the surface of the retina and any pigment changes in the macula that are signs indicating AMD early. They will also conduct tests to identify distorted vision. When indicated, the blood vessels of the eyes are further evaluated by a photographic test called fluorescein angiography, optical coherence topography (OCT) and/or OCT-angiography.
How is AMD treated?
There is no cure, but a large research study called Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS 2) found that taking certain dietary supplements daily can reduce the risk of getting late stage or wet AMD. This is not a cure but can slow disease progression. The latest drugs for treatment of macular degeneration are used by our retinal physicians and surgeons when appropriate. Eating a healthy diet including dark green leafy vegetable and other fruits and vegetables can help people with early AMD. In addition, dietary supplements are sometimes recommended.
The best way to minimize the progression is preventive care. The risks of vision loss can be reduced with periodic evaluation and care of the eyes and by maintaining good overall health. Don’t just assume your eyes are in good health.
Early diagnosis and treatment are paramount to preserving your vision, particularly when it comes to AMD. Call to schedule your appointment at Union Square Eye Care today. Your vision depends on it.