Macular degeneration is a condition that is known by many references, including all of the following: ARMD, AMD, and age-related macular degeneration. The eye condition is age-related and affects the retina located on the back of the interior of the eye. The retina is light-sensitive. The most sensitive part of this portion of the eye is identified as the macula. When macular degeneration occurs, the macula will begin to break down. When this happens, clear images are more difficult for the macula to create. The central vision is controlled by the macula. This part of the vision is what one uses for facial recognition, driving, and reading. With macular degeneration, the individual’s central vision is affected while the peripheral vision remains intact. Thus, the majority of one’s vision is destroyed from this eye condition.
Macular degeneration affects people ages 65 and older, and the eye disorders is the top cause of blindness and vision loss in the US today. What’s more, with the elderly representing a large part of the population, the incidents of macular degeneration are on the rise. To date, statistics suggest there are over 1.75 million people in the US who have AMD and significant loss of vision, and this number is expect to nearly double by 2020 to 3 million people.
There are several classifications for macular degeneration, including neo-vascular (wet,) and non-neovascular (dry). Neovascular muscular degeneration involves the appearance of new blood vessels where they should not grow, such as near or on the macula. In contrast, non-neovascular AMD is the most common form of the eye disease with 85-90% of all AMD cases being of the dry categorization.
Dry AMD: This categorization of the disease is representative of AMD in early stages. It can be triggered by aging and results from macular tissue thinning or the macula having pigment deposits on it, or both processes may be involved simultaneously.
Drusen, which is yellow dry spots, will begin to collect on the macula in the eye. Drusen is macular tissue that has deteriorated and turned into debris and deposits. With dry AMD, the vision loss one experiences may be gradual although the loss of vision is not as extensive as that which occurs in Wet AMD cases.
As per an Age-related Eye Disease study put forth by the National Eye Institute assessing the risk factors associated with cataracts and macular degeneration development, the use of high levels of zinc and antioxidants minimizes the chances of developing dry AMD and its baneful effects. What’s more, the study revealed that high intake of zinc, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and beta-carotene helped diminish the progression of the early stages of AMD by as much as 25 percent.
Wet AMD: This variant of macular degenerationis the one that is most damaging and advanced form of the eye disease. In 10 percent of all AMD cases, the condition will become wet macular degeneration. In this stage, the new growth of blood vessels gets beneath the retina in the back of the eye. Blood and fluid leaks into the area. The retina’s light-sensitive cells are damaged from the fluid leaking, making blind spots, and leading to complete loss of one’s central vision.
The formation of blood vessels behind the retina in this eye disease is the body’s effort to try to build a newer network of vessels in order to give the macular more nutrients and oxygen, but the opposite occurs – it ends with scarring and vision loss because of it.
Macular Degeneration Symptoms
The vision loss with AMD is typically slow and there is no pain associated with the condition. Some of the earliest symptoms one might experience is having distorted or blurred vision and seeing shadows in the central area of vision. Sometimes the vision loss that accompanies this disease is sudden. An eye doctor can identify the signs of AMD via an examination of the retina.
AMD seems to have a link to aging and the natural destruction of eye tissue necessary for vision. There is also research that suggests a gene deficiency is responsible for as much as 50 percent of all cases of AMD.
Who Does it Affect?
AMD affects the elderly, females, and Caucasians the most, and there seems to be a hereditary element to the condition. Some drugs can also cause macular degeneration. What’s more, there is a link to smoking and the onset of AMD. Additional risk factors include hypertension, obesity, light eye color, and a family member who has had AMD. Researchers also assert a connection between AMD and excessive sun exposure as well as a diet high in fat as being a possible cause for the condition.
Treatment for Macular Degeneration
To date, macular degeneration does not have a cure. Some treatments will sometimes help in slowing the progress of the eye condition or contribute to vision improvements. Dry AMD is not associated with any treatments that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Although there is some suggestion that the disease, particularly wet AMD, can benefit from nutritional intervention.
The FDA has approved drugs for dealing with wet AMD: those, which are aimed at ceasing the formation of new blood vessels that contribute to the loss of vision. Alternatively, the retina might be treated with laser treatments. If you have wet AMD you will need to discuss your options with your eye doctor.
Low Vision Devices & Testing
Total recovery of vision loss as the result of AMD is unlikely, even in light of the fact that some treatments may slow down disease progression. An eye doctor can check your eyes using an Amsler grid, which is a chart featuring a grid pattern with black lines arranged on it. If you have AMD, your affected vision may cause you to see the grid as wavy, broken, and distorted. The doctor may have you look at the chart with each eye separately to monitor the condition of your eyes.
For those suffering the effects of AMD, there are low vision tools that can make life a bit easier, including hand held telescopes, and reading glasses with special magnifications. All of the tools can help improve your vision to a certain degree and even better than what regular eyeglasses.