Macular degeneration, which is sometimes called age-related macular degeneration or AMD, is one of the most common eye conditions affecting adults, affecting an estimated 11 million people. It is also one of the leading causes of vision loss in Americans over the age of 60 and any vision loss as a result of macular degeneration is unfortunately irreversible.
Macular degeneration refers to the irreparable degeneration and destruction of part of the eye called the macula. The macula is found within the retina, located at the very back of the eye and the cells of the macula are responsible for our central vision and our ability to see fine details in things. For example, it is the macula that enables us to differentiate between two different but similar-looking people by noticing details about their appearance. As we get older, the cells of the macula break down, making this harder to do. While it doesn’t cause total blindness, it can significantly compromise your ability to perform some day-to-day tasks and activities.
There are several types of macular degeneration. The most common variety, known as ‘dry’ AMD, develops very slowly and gradually, and most people don’t realize they have affected right away. Meanwhile, ‘wet’ AMD is rare, and symptoms appear suddenly, meaning prompt action is needed to prevent any further damage to your vision.
There are a number of symptoms associated with macular degeneration, including:
Distortion of straight lines in your field of vision
A reduction in central vision
The need for brighter lights
Difficulty adapting to low lighting
Difficulty reading, driving, or watching tv as things appear blurred
It becomes difficult to recognize faces
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your eye doctor for assessment. They’ll perform a variety of tests to confirm if you are suffering from macular degeneration. The tests that will be carried out as part of the diagnostic process could include:
Visual field testing: you will be asked to look at a grid of straight lines with a large dot in the center, and whether any appear wavy, blurred or broken. This helps your eye doctor to assess your field of vision.
Dilated eye exam: eyedrops will be administered to dilate your pupils. This will enable your eye doctor to look at the structures inside and at the back of your eyes to see if there are any abnormalities that could be indicative of a problem.
OCT scan: OCT stands for optical coherence tomography, an advanced imaging technique that is used to obtain high-resolution pictures of the back of the eye, enabling your eye doctor to visualize the macula.
Fluorescein angiography: This test involves a special yellow dye called fluorescein being injected into a vein in your arm. This dye enters the bloodstream and reaches the blood vessels in the eye. A special camera is used to track it and take images, which will reveal if there is any blood is leaking onto the macula, which could be causing degeneration and is characteristic of the rarer ‘wet’ macular degeneration.
Most people who are diagnosed with macular degeneration are told that they have the ‘dry’ type. Unfortunately, there is no treatment that can restore your vision to how it was before macular degeneration, but your eye doctor can advise you on visual aids that will limit the impact that it has on your day-to-day life. This could include things like using magnifying glasses, brighter bulbs, or software to make digital screens easier to see. You’ll also be advised of any steps you can take to prevent your AMD from getting any worse – such as by making sure you eat a healthy, balanced diet, taking supplements for eye health, and not drinking too much alcohol.
If you are diagnosed with ‘wet’ AMD, your symptoms will probably have developed more quickly. You’ll also need immediate treatment to stop your vision from worsening. This treatment usually takes the form of medication called anti-VGEF’s which are administered via injection directly into the eyes. Anesthetic is used to help keep you comfortable during treatment. Studies have found that the use of anti-VGEFs can stop vision deterioration in around 90% of patients. Another treatment option is photodynamic therapy. This is where a special light is shone into the eyes to destroy abnormal blood cells that are leaking into the macula. Your eye doctor will be happy to advise you which treatment is the best course of action for you.
If you are concerned about macular degeneration, our dedicated team of eye care specialists would be happy to help. Please contact Fier Eye Care & Surgery Center in Port St. Lucie and Stuart, Florida today at (772) 400-2400 and (772) 286-0007 to schedule an appointment.