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What Is Macular Degeneration?

By Dr. Shantan Reddy

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease associated with aging that can cause you to lose your central vision. It affects the macula, the center part of the retina that allows you to see fine detail. In industrialized nations, age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in people over the age of 65. Approximately 30% of adults aged 75 or older have some signs of age related macular degeneration and 6% to 8% of these individuals are afflicted with the advanced stages of age related macular degeneration. Due to increased life expectancy and current demographics, the prevalence of age related macular degeneration is expected to double by the year 2020.

Risk factors
There are hereditary factors than can contribute to the development of age related macular degeneration.  If any of your family members have age related macular degeneration, it is advisable that you make an appointment with you retinal specialist for a full ophthalmic examination. Other factors that can contribute to the development of age related macular degeneration include smoking and a diet low in Vitamin D.

The Two Types
There are two major clinical presentations of age related macular degeneration, Dry age related macular degeneration and Wet age related macular degeneration.

Dry age related macular degeneration occurs when the photoreceptor or light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down, causing blurry and wavy vision. As dry macular degeneration progresses, the vision can continue to deteriorate, predominantly affecting your central vision. The most common symptom of early dry age related macular degeneration is slightly blurred vision or no vision problems at all. As it progresses you may have difficulty recognizing faces and you may need more light for reading and other tasks.

Wet age related macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels behind the retina start to grow under the macula leading to choroidal neovascularization (CNV). These new blood vessels can leak blood and fluid into the retina causing you to lose vision quite rapidly. Though wet age related macular degeneration only makes up 20% of all cases of macular degeneration, it is responsible for 90% of cases with severe visual loss. An early symptom of wet age related macular degeneration is that straight lines appear wavy. If you notice this condition or other changes to your vision, contact your retinal specialist immediately because visual can be rapid.  You need a comprehensive dilated eye exam.

Though there is no way to reverse visual loss in the dry age related macular degeneration, a certain combination of specific vitamins can decrease the progression of the disease by 25%.  The specific vitamins are called AREDS vitamins with or without leutin and can be purchased at any local pharmacy.  It is important to realize that these do not prevent the disease, but are only effective if you already have age related macular degeneration. On the other hand, there are treatment options for wet age related macular degeneration that have unprecedented results. We now can halt the disease in over 95% of cases of wet age related macular degeneration by injecting a medication called Lucentis into the eye every month.  The procedure is painless, quick, and highly effective. However, it is important to begin treatment immediately before irreversible damage to the retina ensues.

In summary, age related macular degeneration is a complex disease that is growing in our population.  We don’t have any way to prevent it, but by eating a healthy diet rich in vitamin D and green leafy vegetables, refrain from smoking, and going to see your ophthalmologist on a yearly basis, you will likely be able to enjoy a visually beautiful life for years to come.

To learn more about vitamins from Dr. Reddy

To learn more about treatment options from Dr. Reddy

Topics and Subtopics: Eye Care

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