Macular degeneration, often referred to as Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), is one of the leading causes of blindness and vision impairment in people over 50 years of age. This debilitating eye condition has even been known to affect vision in patients in their 40’s, and often starts with symptoms like mild blurriness or distortion, and gets progressively worse. Dr. Michael Sumsion, our board-certified Ophthalmologist, offers many treatment options to slow the progression of macular degeneration. It is very important to identify this condition in its earliest stages in order to prevent serious vision damage from occurring. Routine eye exams and certain preventative measures may also minimize the health risks associated with macular degeneration.
What is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is characterized by the gradual breaking down of the eye’s macula. The macula is the part of the retina that allows you to clearly see textures, colors, and fine details. Those who have a family history of macular degeneration are at a higher risk of developing the condition. Sun and U-V ray exposure, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, genetics, and the natural aging process can all be risk factors for the development of macular degeneration.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
The symptoms of macular degeneration can start very simply, and therefore may be difficult for you to even realize. This makes it vital to have regular eye exams performed by a qualified eye doctor at the first hint of the slightest vision irregularity.
Common symptoms of macular degeneration include:
- Blurry vision
- Blind spots in the center of your vision
- Loss of visual acuity
- Trouble seeing dark or light colors
Additionally, some individuals suffering from macular degeneration may notice objects and lines that are straight taking on a curved or bent appearance. They may also become aware that the size or color of an object can vary depending upon which eye is used to view the object.
Types of Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration typically develops into one of two types: dry (non-neovascular) or wet (neovascular) macular degeneration:
Dry Macular Degeneration
Dry macular degeneration is the most common type, and unfortunately, there are currently no effective surgical treatment options available. The dry form, however, typically progresses very slowly, and vitamin therapy and vision aids may be able to reduce some of the symptoms. Antioxidants, beta-carotene, and other vitamins and minerals may also be useful in the prevention of dry macular degeneration. We recommend taking care to protect your eyes when you are out in the sun, especially if you are at high risk for macular degeneration. Routine eye exams are particularly important for the detection, monitoring, and treatment of this form of macular degeneration.
Wet Macular Degeneration
Wet macular degeneration progresses much faster than the dry form, and often causes extreme vision impairment early in its development. Consequently, patients typically notice these changes in vision and are more likely to seek out the assistance of an eye doctor. When wet macular degeneration develops, blood vessels form abnormally between the layers of the retina and begin to leak blood or fluid, ultimately leading to permanent tissue damage. The major signs of wet macular degeneration includes loss of central of vision and a reduction in the ability to see fine detail. When wet macular degeneration develops in one eye, the risk of the condition developing in the other eye is significantly increased. If the condition is detected in its earliest stages, treatments are available that can slow the progression of vision loss or even improve the vision.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of these conditions, you should immediately seek the advice of an experienced eye doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Treatment for Wet Macular Degeneration
When patients are diagnosed with wet macular degeneration, Dr. Sumsion often treats the condition with a series of intravitreal injections, which have been proven to stop bleeding and prevent further retinal damage for many individuals. There are several types of intravitreal injections available, including Avastin®, Lucentis®, and Eylea®. Dr. Sumsion will choose the medication that can best suit your individual needs after a complete diagnosis of your condition.
To determine which wet macular degeneration treatment is best for you, Dr. Sumsion will conduct a thorough eye exam, carefully review your medical history, discuss your expectations, and help you make a well informed decision about your eye health.
Macular Degeneration Prevention and Detection
A healthy diet is considered one of the best methods of risk reduction and prevention of macular degeneration. A diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants consisting of foods such as leafy green vegetables, carrots, melons, citrus, and fish can be highly beneficial. Vitamins and nutrients such as Vitamin A, C, E, lutein, zeaxanthin, folic acid, and beta-carotene with zinc have been shown to slow the development of macular degeneration. Reducing levels of UV exposure with protective eyewear, as well as refraining from smoking can also help maintain good eye health.
Additionally, routine eye exams give your eye doctor the opportunity to detect macular degeneration in its earliest stages and may improve your chances of preserving your eyesight. The Amsler Grid, a common test utilized to monitor changes in the eye, is easy to administer, and can lead to prompt diagnosis (and subsequent treatment) as soon as macular degeneration develops.