What is Macular Degeneration?
Macular Degeneration, also known as Age-Related Macular Degeneration or AMD, is the leading cause of severe central vision loss in people over 50 years olds in the United States.
AMD is a degeneration of the retinal cells within the eye. Damage to these cells can be visually significant since the retina is analogous to film in a camera. The area of the retina affected is called the macula, which is the center of vision. Waste products build up in the macula as drusen, which can be seen on examination. Dry AMD occurs when only drusen are present.Wet AMD also has new blood vessels that may leak or bleed.
What are the common symptoms of Macular Degeneration?
Early macular degeneration usually has no symptoms and can only be detected during an eye examination. Later in the disease, there may be central visual distortion or blind spots. End-stage disease can result in complete loss of the central vision. The peripheral vision is not affected by macular degeneration.
What are the common causes of Macular Degeneration?
The exact cause of AMD is poorly understood. Inheritance plays a role and certain genes increase the risk for AMD but not all family members will get AMD. Other risk factors are cigarette smoking, farsightedness, heart disease, elevated cholesterol, light iris color and female gender.
Treatment of Macular Degeneration
Although there is no cure for AMD, vitamins and injections play a role in slowing its progression. A large multi centered study named the Age Related Eye Disease Study, AREDS found that in specific high doses the vitamins A,C, and E, along with Zinc and Copper can slow the AMD progression. In wet AMD injections of medications known as anti-VEGF’s such as Avastin and Lucentis can help improve vision. Leutin and Xanthine are also being studied, but have not proven beneficial. Ultraviolet light seems to play a role in AMD and therefore shielding the eyes from the sun is also recommended.