AGE RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION
Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is defined as damage or breakdown of the macula, which is a small area of the retina in the back of the eye that is responsible for central vision. It is one of the leading causes of decreased vision in the United States in patients over the age of 50.
Symptoms of macular degeneration include blurred vision and distortion of central vision, both up close and in the distance. Side vision is rarely affected in this condition.
Dry Versus Wet AMD
AMD is commonly broken down into two types:
“Dry” AMD (atrophic): This type accounts for up to 90% of all cases, and is caused by aging and thinning of the tissues of the macula. Vision loss is mild to moderate in many cases and is usually gradual.
“Wet AMD (exudative): This type accounts for about 10% of all cases, but a majority of cases with severe visual loss. It results from abnormal blood vessels that develop beneath the retina, in an area called the choroid. These vessels may leak fluid or bleed, causing an elevation of the macula and subsequent central vision distortion. The vision loss may be rapid.
How do you know if you have AMD?
AMD can be diagnosed by your ophthalmologist during a general eye examination. If you notice a decline in central vision and/or distortion of central vision, you should have an ophthalmologist perform an eye examination in order to determine if AMD or another eye problem may be present. AMD can be detected based on a dilated examination and supporting tests. These include OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography), which is a detailed scan of the retina and macula, and fluorescein angiography, where a dye is injected into a peripheral vein and special pictures are taken to find abnormal blood vessels in the retina.
How is AMD treated?
Dry AMD is treated by careful observation and nutritional supplements. A large study (AREDS2) showed that certain vitamins and minerals taken in combination might slow down the progression of dry AMD.
Wet AMD is treated by retina specialists with special injections and sometimes laser surgery to help prevent further visual deterioration and improve visual function. We are fortunate to have several excellent retina specialists in the area, and your ophthalmologist will be able to determine which patients will require further treatment with a specialist and make a prompt referral.