Diagnosis & Management
Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in adults over 60 and affects more than 10 million Americans.
Dr. Mark Bennett at Spectrum Eye Care specializes in diagnosing age-related eye diseases and conditions. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in adults over 60 and affects more than 10 million Americans. There is no cure for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), but if detected early, there are treatments which can slow down the progression of the disease.
What is Macular Degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a chronic, progressive disease that affects the central field of vision and can lead to blindness. It affects the macula, the part of the retina responsible for allowing us to see objects in front of us. People who have macular degeneration have difficulty reading, watching television, driving, seeing people’s faces, and going about other common daily activities.
What are the Symptoms of Macular Degeneration?
The primary symptoms of age-related macular degeneration include the following:
- Blurry vision
- Decreased central vision in one or both eyes
- Blind spots
- Straight lines may appear wavy or bent
- Poor vision in low lighting
- Objects appear smaller when viewed with one eye
Types of Macular Degeneration
There are two types of age-related macular degeneration: dry and wet. The disease can progress slowly in some people and develop rapidly in others depending on the type of macular degeneration.
Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Dry AMD is the most common type of macular degeneration and happens as the macula gets thinner with age.
During the early stage of dry AMD, there usually aren’t any obvious symptoms. As the disease progresses to the intermediate stage, mild symptoms may be experienced, such as mild blurriness in the central vision or trouble seeing in low light. When the disease progresses to late stage, people notice that lines appear wavy and see a dark spot in their central field of vision.
The dry form always precedes the wet. Vision loss in dry AMD is due to damage to the retina from drusen. These deposits of cellular waste, including proteins and lipids, slowly damage nearby cells and damage the cones in the center part of your vision.
Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Also known as neovascular AMD, any stage of dry AMD can turn into wet AMD — but wet AMD is always late stage. It happens when abnormal blood vessels grow in the back of the eye and damage the macula.
At some point, people with dry AMD convert to wet AMD after the retina releases a molecule called Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF). VEGF promotes the growth of blood vessels in the retina to provide more oxygen to the retina, but unfortunately, these blood vessels leak and can damage the retina directly. Vision loss occurs rapidly in wet AMD.
What Are the Risk Factors for Macular Degeneration?
Risk for developing macular degeneration increases as you age. People over 50 are more likely than younger people to develop macular degeneration.
Other risk factors include having a family history of AMD, being Caucasian, and smoking. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and spending a large amount of time in the sun without any protection for the eyes also increases the risk to develop macular degeneration.
Because there are no symptoms in the early stage of macular degeneration, it is vital for adults to get regular comprehensive eye exams, particularly if there is a family history of AMD or other risk factors.
The best way to prevent developing macular degeneration is to not smoke, eat a healthy diet, and exercise on a regular basis. Wearing quality sunglasses to block 99% – 100% of UV rays also help protect your eyes.
Treatment for Macular Degeneration
While there is currently no cure for macular degeneration, during the dry phase of macular degeneration, the goal is to slow down the progression of the disease and lessen the chances of the disease converting to the wet form of macular degeneration. Certain vitamins have been shown to significantly reduce the number of people who progress from the dry form to the wet form of macular degeneration, thereby delaying vision loss from the disease. Dr. Mark Bennett will create a customized treatment plan based on the individual needs of the patient.
Schedule an Appointment for a Comprehensive Eye Exam at Spectrum Eye Care
All adults should have regular comprehensive eye exams, particularly if over 50 years of age. If it’s been some time since your last eye exam, schedule an appointment at Spectrum Eye Care. We are qualified to diagnose age-related eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration.