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Macular Degeneration

Category: Vision Health Concern

Published: 2016-10-12

Macular degeneration, specifically age related, is one of the leading causes of vision loss among people 50 and over. Problems that arise from macular degeneration include damage to the retina and loss of clear vision.

With an aging population expected to grow significantly over the coming years, age related macular degeneration (AMD or ARMD) has presented itself as a major health concern.

Approximately 2 million Americans suffers from AMD as of 2010, with estimates suggesting as many as 5.4 million will be afflicted by 2050.

There are two forms of macular degeneration that you should be familiar with if you are nearing or among the age group most susceptible to the disease:

  • Dry Macular Degeneration is the most common form, affecting 85 to 95 percent of patients with AMD. Dry AMD is an early stage of the disease and may be caused by the aging and thinning of macular tissues, which leaves deposits of deteriorating tissue around the macula (oval-shaped pigmented area near the center of the retina)
  • Wet Macular Degeneration by comparison affects a much smaller percentage of the population, resulting in 10 percent of AMD cases. This form of macular degeneration is more advanced and causes new blood vessels to grow beneath the retina, causing fluid and blood to leak out of the eye. The leakage in turn causes damage to the retina, creating blind spots.

Signs & Symptoms Of Macular Degeneration

AMD doesn’t result in complete blindness, but can cause spots that affect the central portion of vision. When this occurs, everyday tasks can become more challenging. If you notice the following symptoms, visit one of our Optometrists for a comprehensive eye exam:

  • Visual distortions, such as straight lines appearing to be bent
  • Reduced central vision in one or both eyes
  • The need for brighter light when reading or doing close work
  • Increased difficulty adapting to low light levels, such as when entering a dimly lit restaurant
  • Increased blurriness of printed words
  • Decreased intensity or brightness of colors
  • Difficulty recognizing faces

Ways Macular Degeneration Can Be Treated

Unfortunately there are no procedures to fully cure macular degeneration. There are however different therapies that can be used to treat and slow the progression of the disease:

  • Injections – drugs are injected directly into the eye to help slow the progression
  • Photodynamic Therapy – select areas of the retina are given laser treatment while drugs are administered to slow the growth of blood vessels that cause AMD
  • Laser Surgery – less common and used only in the most severe cases where blood vessels in the eye are destroyed by a “hot” laser as opposed to a cold one used in photodynamic therapy

The key to stopping AMD from causing permanent blindness is to catch it early. Similar to  cataracts or glaucoma, where early detection can save vision, AMD requires diagnoses and continued monitoring by your Optometrist to stop its progression.