Conditions

Macular Degeneration

Overview

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in Americans who are 60 or older. Macular degeneration damages a person’s central vision, which is needed to see objects clearly, read and drive. Without clear vision, a person can become incapable of completing daily tasks effectively or independently.

Warning Signs & Symptoms

There are two kinds of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Dry AMD is the more common of the two, with blurred vision often being the earliest warning sign. People see details less clearly as deterioration occurs in the cells of the macula, the area surrounding the small depression near the center of the retina. Bright light often decreases the blurred vision, but people may experience a growing blind spot in their vision over time, as the condition progresses slowly. If dry AMD occurs only in one eye, the other eye may become strengthened in order to compensate.

Wet AMD is less common. It occurs when blood vessels leak fluid, which gathers and lifts the macula, distorting vision. The first sign that many people perceive is that straight lines begin to appear bent. Small blind spots may also occur and cause a loss of central vision.

Diagnosis

When someone may be suffering from AMD, the doctor diagnoses the condition by taking photographs of the eyes with fluorescein angiography and optical coherence tomography (OCT). Early detection is the most effective way to slow vision loss.

Treatment/Procedures

While there is currently no cure for AMD, several treatments can slow its progression.

  • For wet AMD, treatment most frequently begins with drug injections that reduce blood vessel growth (Avastin, Lucentis, Eylea). Injections are often supplemented by photodynamic therapy and thermal laser treatment.
  • For dry AMD, ongoing clinical trials are being conducted. However, few treatment options exist today.

Prevention

Roughly half of AMD cases are related to genetics, according to recent studies. Increased risk factors are common among people over 65, whites and females.

Studies have shown that certain nutrients lower the risk of AMD and slow its progression, including:

  • Omega 3 Fish Oil
  • Leutein
  • Zeaxanthine

Smoking and having a family history of AMD also greatly increase your risk of developing the disease. If you smoke or if someone in your family has AMD, ask your physician to help you quit smoking and get a comprehensive eye examination from your eyecare practitioner.