What Is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

May 27th, 2014 by Carolina Eye Associates

Carolina Eye Associates, Arghavan Almony, MD

Diabetic Eye, Retina, and Vitreous Specialist

What Is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration or AMD is a common cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older.  There are two types of AMD:  dry and wet.  Dry AMD is typically considered an early form of the disease, and in most cases, does not have a significant impact on vision.  Wet AMD is an advanced form of the disease and affects about 10% of people with AMD.  In wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels grow and leak in the back of the eye, causing central vision loss.  AMD can interfere with activities such as reading, writing, and driving.

What Are the Risk Factors for Macular Degeneration?

There is a large genetic component in AMD.  Macular degeneration affects 50% of people who have a relative with AMD but only 12% of people without a family history.  Use of tobacco products is also important and can triple the risk of developing wet AMD.  Sunlight exposure, obesity, hypertension, and high cholesterol are less significant risk factors.

What Are the Symptoms of Macular Degeneration?

The symptoms of macular degeneration can vary.  There may be no symptoms in people with early or dry AMD, therefore, regular dilated examinations by an eye doctor are important to detect AMD in its early stages.  In people with advanced or wet AMD, the symptoms can include blurry, distorted, or decreased vision.  The Amsler grid (see below) is a grid of horizontal and vertical lines used to aid in the detection of visual disturbances caused by changes in the macula or center part of vision.

In the test, the person looks with each eye separately at the small dot in the center of the grid.  People with AMD may see Almsler Gridwavy or missing lines.

How Is Macular Degeneration Diagnosed?

Comprehensive dilated eye exams, in conjunction with photographs of the eyes are used to diagnose early and advanced AMD.

What Treatments Are Available for Macular Degeneration?

The focus for early dry AMD is prevention and monitoring.  People with dry AMD should consult their eye doctor to see if certain eye vitamins may be recommended in their situation.  A 2013 study by the National Eye Institute showed that a combination of vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, lutein, and zeaxanthin can reduce the risk of wet AMD by 25%.  Regular use of the Amsler grid (see above) can alert people if there are subtle changes or distortions in the vision so that they can make an appointment with their eye doctor immediately.

Until 2005, the treatment options for wet AMD were severely limited.  We are now able to slow the progression of wet AMD by injecting a drug into the eye monthly.

What Is the Outlook for People With Macular Degeneration?

 Dry AMD typically progresses very slowly, allowing people affected by it to keep most of their vision.  Wet AMD can be variable and may progress to severe vision loss.   With timely examinations and treatments, however, the vision can remain stable for many years.  AMD only affects central vision so peripheral vision remains excellent.  Currently, there are thousands of studies researching all aspects of AMD and the future promise better and more effective treatments for both types of AMD.

Carolina Eye Associates is one of the largest eye care providers in the Southeast and provide a full range of diagnostic and treatment services.  These services include state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment of cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic eye, dry eye disease, LASIK and eyelid and brow lifts.  For more information on eye diseases visit our website at www.carolinaeye.com.

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