Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in Americans over 65 years of age, and approximately 200,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. AMD stands for “Age-related Macular Degeneration,” and it’s a foreboding diagnosis and a difficult one to stomach. Once it has been diagnosed, treatments aim to slow the progression because a cure has not yet been discovered. AMD affects about 15 million Americans.
There are two types of macular degeneration: “wet” and “dry.” Dry macular degeneration is the first phase of the disease, and approximately 10% of patients diagnosed with it will progress to wet macular degeneration, a more serious stage of the disease. The macula (also known as the fovea) is a tiny portion at the back of your eye, a 1mm spot on the retina, that is responsible for the majority of your eyesight called central vision. Because the macula is responsible for high visually detailed vision, it has a very dense concentration of cells. In AMD, some or all of the macular cells degenerate and die. As a result, the corresponding parts of the eyesight for which they’re responsible no longer register vision. Though AMD takes away from central vision, sufferers can still perceive motion and “see” using their peripheral vision.
Wet macular degeneration is the combination of dry AMD plus the growth of new, unwanted blood vessels in the macula. The body thinks it needs to supply more oxygen to the areas of the macula that have died, and it compensates by growing new blood vessels in the macular area. These blood vessels are often weak and have a tendency to leak. When one or more of these fragile vessels rupture, spilling blood into the macula, the effect on eyesight is devastating. These leaks in the retina obscure eyesight wherever the blood and fluid go.
Potential Risk Factors for Macular Degeneration:
- Patient’s Age
- Family History of Macular Degeneration
- Gender: women are slightly more at risk than men
- Race: Caucasians have elevated risk
- Ultraviolet (UV) light exposure
- Diet lacking proper nutrition
Potential treatments for Macular Degeneration:
While there is no available cure for AMD, treatment can sometimes help diminish the negative effects and delay the disease’s progression.
- Wearing sunglasses (UV protection)
- Taking vitamin supplements (as recommended by your eye doctor)
- Quitting smoking
- Injectable medications
- Other medications (some available, many others currently under research
- Low vision aids (optical and digital)
The team of optometrists at Primary Eyecare are fully trained to diagnose and help treat macular degeneration. If you have questions, or if you’d like to request an appointment, please contact us today!