Patient Education - Age-related Macular Degeneration
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Age-related Macular Degeneration

patient13Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disorder of the macula, the small, central portion of the retina that processes the sharp, "straight ahead" vision needed for reading, driving a car or recognizing faces. AMD does not cause total blindness because the remaining or undamaged parts of the retina around the macula continue to provide peripheral or "side" vision. AMD is more common in people over 60 and often runs in families.

There are two common types of macular degeneration. The more common "dry" form is associated with the aging and thinning of the tissues of the macula. It develops slowly and usually causes mild vision loss. The "wet" form accounts for 20% of AMD cases but poses a greater threat to vision. In these cases, abnormal blood vessels grow beneath the retina where they leak fluid and blood. If severe, this can create a large blind spot in the center of vision, resulting in the loss of all "straight ahead" vision.

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Signs and Symptoms

Blurry or fuzzy vision; distortion of straight lines, such as sentences on a page, telephone poles, and sides of buildings; a dark or empty area in the center of vision

Treatment

Intraocular anti-VEGF injection therapies have revolutionized the treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration. Wet macular degeneration is the result of the formation of new, fragile and leaky blood vessels growing under the retina, damaging the rod and cone cells. The anti-VEGF drugs, which are injected into the eye with a fine needle, inhibit the growth of these leaky blood vessels and improve vision for patients with wet age-related macular degeneration.
Avastin and Lucentis are the two most commonly used anti-VEGF drugs.
So far there is no treatment for the dry type of macular degeneration.
Patients who have macular degeneration in one eye or early signs of macular degeneration can benefit from the following measures:

  • Monitor your vision daily. By checking your vision regularly, changes that may require treatment can be detected early.
  • Take a multi-vitamin with zinc. (check with your eye doctor for a recommendation). Antioxidants, along with zinc and lutein are essential nutrients, all found in the retina. It is believed that people with macular degeneration may be deficient in these nutrients.
  • Incorporate dark leafy green vegetables into your diet.
  • Always protect your eyes with sunglasses that have UV protection. Ultraviolet rays are believed to cause damage to the pigment cells in the retina.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking impairs the body’s circulation, decreasing the efficiency of the retinal blood vessels.
  • Exercise regularly. Cardiovascular exercise improves the body’s overall health and increases the efficiency of the circulatory system.