Age-related macular degeneration is a disease of the macula, an area of the retina at the back of the eye that is responsible for fine detail vision. Vision loss usually occurs gradually and typically affects both eyes at different rates. Even with a loss of central vision, however, color vision and peripheral vision may remain clear. There are two forms of age-related macular degeneration, wet and dry, with dry being the vast majority of cases.
Wet macular degeneration occurs when abnormal or leaking blood vessels grow underneath the retina in the area of the macula. These changes can lead to distorted or blurred vision and, in some cases, a rapid and severe loss of straight ahead vision.
Dry macular degeneration occurs when there is thinning or deterioration of the tissues of the macula or the formation of abnormal yellow deposits called drusen. Progression of dry macular degeneration occurs very slowly and does not always affect both eyes equally.
The actual cause of macular degeneration is still unknown, but there are people who have a higher risk of it developing. Women are at a slightly higher risk than men, and caucasians are more likely to develop it than African Americans. While it appears to be hereditary in some families, it is not in others. Medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hypertension, infections, and head injuries also put you at a higher risk of developing macular degeneration.
What to Expect
In its early stages, macular degeneration may cause little or no noticeable change in vision. A person who has it may begin to notice difficulty when reading without extra light or magnification, seeing objects as distorted or blurred, or not being able to see details. They may also have the perception that objects “jump” when looking right at them.
While routine eye exams can detect macular degeneration before it causes vision loss, treatments can only slow and not restore vision once it has been lost. In the early stages of macular degeneration, regular eye check-ups, attention to diet, in-home monitoring of vision and possibly nutritional supplements may be all that is recommended. In some wet form cases, new treatments such as Avastin and LUCENTIS may be used to block abnormal blood vessel growth and leakage. In other cases of wet macular degeneration, laser treatment may be recommended. This involves the use of a painless laser light to destroy abnormal, leaking blood vessels under the retina.
Who will my doctor be?
Rather than being a practice of general ophthalmologists, each doctor at the Taustine Eye Center has an area of specialization. These specializations ensure that our patients receive the most up-to-date treatments from highly experienced and knowledgeable doctors.