Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration

What is age - related macular degeneration ( ARMD ) ?

Age - related macular degeneration (ARMD) is a condition that occurs when cells in the Macula Degenerate ( the central, and most sensitive part of the retina at the back of the eye ), that is, they become damaged and die. Damage to the macula affects your central vision which is needed for Reading, Writing, Driving, Recognising People's Faces and Doing Other Fine Tasks. This disorder results in the loss of central vision only peripheral fields are always maintained. Although loss of ability to read and drive may be caused by Macular Degeneration, the disease does not lead to complete blindness.

Who gets age - related macular degeneration ?

ARMD is the most common form of Macular Degeneration and develops in older people. The disease becomes increasingly common amongst people in each succeeding decade over 50. By age 75, almost 15% of people have this condition ( There are other rare types of Macular Degeneration which occur in younger people ). If you develop ARMD in one eye, you have a high chance that it will also develop in the other eye too. There are two main types of AMD, the "Dry" form and the "Wet" form, based on the absence or the presence of abnormal growth of blood vessels under the retina.

"Dry ARMD" is the most common form and occurs in 85% of cases. In this type the cells in the retinal pigment epithelium of the macula gradually become thin ( They 'Atrophy' ) and degenerate thus causing reduction in vision. Typically, Dry - ARMD is a very gradual process and it usually takes several years for vision to become seriously affected. Many people with Dry - ARMD do not totally lose their reading vision. "Wet ARMD" Approximately 15% of patients with AMD have the "Wet Form", where there is a growth of abnormal blood vessels under the retina, which can cause Leakage, Bleeding, and Scarring, Resulting in more rapid and severe vision loss. About 80% of severe vision loss is due to the wet form as compared to 20% due to the dry form.

What are the symptoms of age - related macular degeneration ?

The main early symptom is blurring of central vision despite using any glasses that you need. In the early stages of the condition you may notice that you need brighter light to read, Words in a book or newspaper may become blurry, Colours appear less bright, You have difficulty recognising faces

What happens to Vision : Some people with Macular Degeneration may notice that straight lines in a landscape - such as telegraph poles, the sides of buildings or streets, appear wavy. Other symptoms include blurring of type or a page of print, with dark or empty spaces that may block the centre of the field of vision. Take The Online Macular Degeneration test to find out if you need help.

What can you do to reduce the risks?

Diet : Eat foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin or supplements. high quantities of dietary supplements that contain the antioxidant Vitamins A, C, E, beta - Carotene and the Minerals Zinc and Copper, such as citrus Fruits, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Nuts, Seeds, Orange and Yellow Vegetables, Cherries, Blackberries, and Blueberries. Consuming fish ( like tuna ) more than once per week may be beneficial Reduce alcohol consumption ( alcohol may deplete antioxidants and carotenoids in the body ).

General Health : Decrease cardiovascular risk factors ( Hypertension, Obesity, Fats, Cholesterol ) Gentle exercise is good for you - but don't overdo it.

Quit Smoking : Overall smokingaccounts for 32% of ARMD. Even stopping at the age of 80 will reduce the risk of developing the disease. Stop or Never Start Smoking.

Eye Protection : Wear uv - blocking glasses / sunglasses and ( preferably large or wrap - around types ) Wear hats or caps.

Is there any treatment for age - related macular degeneration ?

For the common 'Dry - ARMD', there is no treatment ( apart from taking dietary supplements ). However, remember that in this type of ARMD the visual loss tends to be very gradual, over 5-10 years or so. For the less common 'Wet - ARMD' in some cases treatments like photodynamic therapy and treatment with drugs may halt or delay the progression of visual loss. Some newer treatments may even be able to reverse some of the visual loss. Photodynamic Therapy,is where a light is shone on to the eye to activate a medicine that destroys the abnormal blood vessels. It is effective only if the condition is caught early. The process takes about half an hour.

Drugs that can treat macular degeneration ?

In recent years a group of drugs ( medicines ) called Anti - VEGF Drugs have been developed. VEGF stands for 'Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor'. This is a chemical that is involved in the formation of new blood vessels in the macula in people with Wet - ARMD. By blocking the action of this chemical, it helps to prevent the formation of the abnormal blood vessels that occur in Wet - ARMD thereby preventing its complications. Anti - VEGF Drugs include Ranibizumab ( Trade Name, Lucentis ), Pegaptanib ( Macugen ), and Bevacizumab ( Avastin ). These drugs are injected directly into the vitreous of the eye by a fine needle, and injections may be needed more than once at few weeks interval to keep on with their effect. The main aim of treatment with Anti - VEGF Drugs is to prevent wet - ARMD from getting worse. However, it seems that in some cases these drugs may actually restore some of the vision that has been lost.

How can you take care of your vision now that you have AMD ?

Dry AMD : If you have Dry AMD, you should have a comprehensive dilated eye examination at least once a year. Your ophthalmologist can monitor your condition and check for other eye diseases and at the same time he may suggest that you take the products containing high levels of antioxidants and zinc. If you have Wet AMD and your doctor advises treatment, do not wait. After treatment with laser or injection, you will need frequent eye exams to detect any recurrence of leaking blood vessels

What can you do if you have already lost some vision from AMD ?

If you have lost some sight from AMD, don't be afraid to use your eyes for reading, watching TV, and other routine activities. Normal use of your eyes will not cause further damage to your vision. If you have lost some sight from AMD, ask your ophthalmologist aboutlow vision services and devices that may help you make the most of your remaining vision.