Learn About Macular Degeneration and Treatment at The Eye Centers

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of functional blindness in persons over 65 in the United States. AMD involves damage that occurs to the macula, a small part of the retina responsible for central vision and detail discrimination such as reading and recognizing faces. One third of all people over age 75 have AMD. The exact cause is unknown, but it is almost always related to aging changes.

The effects of AMD range from no vision loss to severe vision loss, distortion and blind spots in the central vision. AMD occurs in two forms: dry and wet, with the wet form resulting in growth of abnormal blood vessels that tend to leak. Vision loss associated with dry AMD is usually gradual. Vision loss associated with wet AMD can be sudden and severe.

Currently there is no cure and no proven treatment for AMD. There is evidence that high blood pressure, nutrition, smoking and UV light (sunlight) play a role in its development. Therefore, prevention and control of AMD involves good control of blood pressure, good nutrition (especially antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin…and plenty of green leafy vegetables), smoking-cessation, and sun protection (sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats).
Once your doctor has diagnosed AMD, he will recommend a follow-up schedule to monitor progression. He may recommend nutritional supplements and give you a test card (Amsler grid) to monitor yourself at home.

If the wet form of AMD develops, your doctor may recommend laser treatments to destroy abnormal blood vessels responsible for the severe vision loss that can result. A new treatment that involves injecting a medication into the bloodstream and then using a low-energy laser to activate it where it is needed in the macula (photodynamic therapy) is showing some promise.

Early diagnosis and monitoring is important, so anyone over 50 should have an annual examination with an optometrist or ophthalmologist, and report any vision changes immediately.