Macular Degeneration (or Age Related Macular Degeneration) is a disease that affects over 14 million people in America. It is in fact the leading cause of loss of vision in people over 50. The damage that occurs during this disease is in the macula, or the central and fine-focus part of the retina. It can cause vision loss ranging from blur, to metamorphopsia (or changes in the shape of an image), to missing spots in the vision.
There are two types of Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD).
- Dry ARMD is also known as nonexudative ARMD and is characterized by loss of photoreceptors in the macula. The result of this is typically a gradual decrease in vision. Unfortunately, there is not currently a treatment for Dry ARMD.
- Wet ARMD is also know as exudative or neovascular ARMD. This is caused by a new blood vessel growing underneath the retina in an area that is should not be present. This new blood vessel causes a change in the shape of the retina as well as bleeding and swelling. If left untreated, this blood vessel is likely to rupture causing scarring of the retina. Vision loss can be severe and rapid in this disease. Fortunately, there are a number of new treatments for this type of macular degeneration.
Who is at risk?
- Smoking is one of the leading risk factors for progression of ARMD. Stopping smoking today will not only improve your health, but will help to prevent the worsening of this disease.
▪ Age is a risk factor for developing this disease, hence the name of Age Related Macular Degeneration
▪ ARMD is more common in Caucasian races
▪ Family history of macular degeneration increases your risk of developing the disease by about 4 times
▪ High blood pressure has also been shown to play a role in the development of ARMD
What are the symptoms?
- The most common complaint is blurred vision. Many people who have Dry ARMD are asymptomatic, but a slow decrease in the central vision is possible. With Wet ARMD unfortunately the loss of vision can be rapid and severe
▪ Missing spots in the central vision is more common with Wet ARMD but is possible in the advanced stages of Dry ARMD
▪ Metamorphopsia, or distorted vision can sometimes be seen. This is described as straight lines that appear to have a curve or a bump in them. This can be measured with an Amsler Grid.
What treatments are available?
The treatment of ARMD depends on what stage of the disease you have. For Dry ARMD, there are no treatments available. For most people in this stage, more frequent eye exams are recommended to monitor for changes or progression of the disease. As the disease progresses, certain vitamins can help to slow the process. Continuing with a healthy diet and exercise not only helps to stop the progression of the disease but can also help you to keep from getting it in the first place!
Wet ARMD, the more advanced form of the disease does have some treatment options available. Treatment with a laser was one of the first ways that this disease was managed. It was somewhat effective but did have is problems. More recently we have turned to treating with injections of medication into the eye. These medications can slow or stop the formation of new blood vessels and help to shrink the ones that are already there. Unfortunately this is not always a cure of the disease and multiple or even maintenance doses of the medication may be needed.
How can I prevent this disease?
A healthy diet and regular exercise is one of the best ways to prevent this disease. Specifically a diet which includes fish and green, leafy vegetables is key. Once the disease is present, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study has shown that certain vitamins in high doses help to prevent the progression of ARMD. As mentioned before, smoking is one of the main risk factors for progression of this disease as well.
For more information on Age-Related Eye Disease or any other disorder of the eye, contact our office.
6699 Chimney Rock Rd
Houston, TX 77081
1331 W Grand Pkwy N
Katy, TX 77493
CLEAR LAKE /PEARLAND
Houston, TX 77089
Houston, TX 77065