Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration and Aging

The macula is the most sensitive part of the retina, the thin layer of tissue at the back of the eye. It is made of millions of light-sensitive cells that communicate information about central and defined vision.

The macula aids us in seeing objects that are straight ahead. If damaged, the information the macula sends to the retina, which in turn is sent to the optic nerve to produce the images we see, appears dark and distorted.

Symptoms of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

AMD is the most common cause of vision loss among individuals over 50. It is a degenerative condition. Depending on the patient, AMD can progress slowly or quickly and can appear in one or both eyes.

Objects may appear less bright, and central vision will become more damaged over time, that is, you will have spots in the center of your eyes that grow progressively.

While AMD does not cause complete blindness, it affects quality of life (reading, driving and other daily tasks become more difficult or impossible).

AMD Diagnosis and Risk Factors

An eye exam for AMD may include a visual acuity test, a dilated eye exam, an Amsler grid, a fluorescein angiogram or an optical coherence tomography. The early signs of AMD are often not apparent.

Although AMD usually appears after the age of 60, it can occur earlier. There are other risk factors. Smoking could double the risk of AMD; AMD is more is more common for Caucasians; and family history and/or genetics can affect your risk of AMD.

Treatment for Different Stages of AMD

There are three stages of AMD, depending on how much drusen are under the retina:

In early AMD medium-sized drusen, lay under the retina and typically there are no symptoms associated with the AMD. Additionally, there are no current treatments for early AMD. However, you should have your eyes examined regularly and live a healthy lifestyle (avoid smoking and eat well).

Individuals with intermediate AMD have large drusen under the retina, and possibly changes in pigment. It may cause vision loss for some, however there are typically no noticeable symptoms and it can be detected with an exam only. Treatments include taking nutritional supplements such as beta-carotene, although this solution is debated amongst eye professionals.

In late AMD drusen is accompanied by vision loss because their macula is damaged. Late AMD comes in two types, geographic atrophy or dry AMD, and neovascular AMD or wet AMD.

In patients who have geographic atrophy or dry AMD, the light-sensing cells and tissue in the macula that transmit information to the retina, and in turn the optic nerve and brain, break down. This is what causes the loss in vision.

In patients with neovascular AMD or wet AMD, blood vessels are stimulated to grow underneath the retina. These blood vessels are abnormal and hemorrhage (leak fluid and blood). This leads to damage to the macula via swelling of the blood vessels and retina.

Geographic atrophy is not as rapid or severe as neovascular AMD. Treatments for Advanced AMD may not stop progression of the disorder, but they are an attempt to help stop the profression. Different types of treatments may be used such as, injections, photodynamic therapy and laser surgery. Neovascular AMD usually results in vision loss that is severe and rapid.

Worried About Macular Degeneration? Call Dr. Ghosheh Today.

More research is currently being done about AMD, but at present the progression usually ultimately results in vision loss over an indeterminate period of time. Depending on what type of AMD you have may depend on the effectiveness of the treatment you receive and what treatment your doctor recommends.

If you are over the age of 50, it is important to maintain regular visits to your eye doctor to ensure you do not have early AMD and can attempt to prevent severe progression.

Schedule a visit with Dr. Ghosheh of Laser for Eyes. If you have more questions about AMD or other eye conditions that may be affecting you, you can also take a look at Dr. Ghosheh’s medical blog for further consultation.