Diagnosis and Treatment

Macular Degeneration

Diagnosis and Treatment

Macular Degeneration

The doctors at Ascension Optical have the expertise and diagnostic technology to diagnose eye diseases, including macular degeneration, in the early stages before you may be aware of any symptoms of loss of vision. While there is currently no cure for macular degeneration, the earlier it is detected, the more proactive measures you can take to delay or even prevent blindness.

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. It is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in adults over 60 and affects more than 10 million Americans.

People who have macular degeneration have difficulty reading, watching television, driving, seeing people’s faces, and going about other common daily activities.

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. It 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 the late stage, people notice that lines appear wavy and see a dark spot in their central field of 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. Vision loss occurs rapidly in wet AMD.

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. This usually happens later in the dry phase; however, it occasionally happens quite early in the dry phase while vision is still good. 

What are the risk factors for macular degeneration?

The risk of 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 increase 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. 

Can I prevent macular degeneration? 

Lower your risk of developing macular degeneration by incorporating healthy habits into your lifestyle. Don’t smoke, eat a healthy diet, and exercise on a regular basis. Wear quality sunglasses to block 99%-100% of UV rays to protect your eyes from the sun’s UV rays. 

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. 

If the diagnosis is the wet form of macular degeneration, vision loss will be quite rapid. However, there are anti-VEGF injections that can prevent vision loss and, in some cases, restore vision. These injections will often get the swelling down, improve vision, and prevent further blood vessel growth.