What Is Macular Degeneration?
Everyone should be aware of a severe eye disease, Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Unfortunately, AMD is quite prevalent. One in six Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 will be affected while one in four Americans between 64 and 74 will be afflicted. One in three over the age of 75 will be affected. Each year 1.2 million of the estimated 12 million people with macular degeneration will suffer severe central vision loss.
Macular degeneration can cause different symptoms in different people. Sometimes only one eye loses vision while the other eye continues to see well for many years. The condition may be hardly noticeable in its early stages. But, when both eyes are affected, reading and close up work can become difficult. The early symptoms of the most severe type of AMD are usually distortion or blurring of the central vision. If you feel you may have problems with your central vision, it is important to see your eye doctor right away to evaluate for AMD. The best treatment options are most effective early in the disease process.
The area of the eye that is affected is the RETINA, the thin tissue in the back of the eye that acts like the “film in a camera.” The MACULA is the area of the retina that gives one central vision. If this area is affected, the central vision is affected while the peripheral vision is usually preserved.
There are two distinct forms of AMD, a “Dry” type and a “Wet” type. The dry form represents weakening in the macula. Fortunately, this form does not normally lead to severe loss of vision. If the weakening in the macula is severe enough, blood from underneath the retina can leak into the retina. This is how the wet type occurs and it is the most damaging.
Two of many treatments that have garnered a great deal of national attention, but can also be misunderstood. The first is a treatment for dry AMD. The National Institute of Health conducted a long-term study that showed the use of specific vitamins in certain doses could slow the progression of dry AMD. That is, if individuals with dry AMD that are at risk for developing the wet type used these vitamins, they were less likely to lose vision from wet AMD. Your eye doctor can discuss the types of vitamins used in the study.
The second treatment is for wet AMD. Over the last three years, certain medications have been found that can slow or stop progression of wet AMD. These drugs must be injected directly into the eye. Normally, for effective treatment injections must be repeated at set intervals to preserve the vision. At this time, there is no “cure” for wet AMD, but many patients benefit from this ongoing treatment.
AMD is a potentially sight threatening disease that must be caught early to give one the best chance of preserving vision.