Larson Eye Center
Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration

Macular DegenerationMacular degeneration, often called AMD or ARMD (age-related macular degeneration), is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in people over 65 years of age. AMD occurs with degeneration of the macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for the sharp, central vision needed to read or drive. Because the macula primarily is affected in AMD, central vision loss may occur. Macular degeneration is diagnosed as either “dry” (Atrophic) or “wet” (Exudative).

Atrophic “Dry” Macular Degeneration
Atrophic (“dry”) AMD is the most common form of macular degeneration and is caused by aging and thinning of macular tissues when drusen are present. Vision loss is usually gradual and almost never leads to total blindness. Dry AMD is an early stage of the disease and may hardly be noticeable. It may also occur in only one eye. Dry macular degeneration is diagnosed when yellowish spots known as drusen begin to accumulate on the macula.

At this time, no FDA-approved treatments are available for the dry form of macular degeneration. However, evidence shows that taking certain nutrients such as beta carotene (vitamin A) and vitamins C and E may help prevent or slow progression of dry macular degeneration. Some eye doctors also recommend that dry AMD patients wear sunglasses with UV protection against potentially harmful effects of the sun.

Exudative “Wet” Macular Degeneration
Exudative (“wet”) AMD is caused when abnormal blood vessels form underneath the retina. These vessels leak blood/fluid and blur a patient's central vision. Vision loss with “wet” AMD is usually more rapid and severe and can lead to total blindness if left untreated. Early stages of “wet” AMD may be hard to notice but symptoms may include blurry vision, dark or empty areas in the central vision and straight lines and now look wavy or distorted.

Treatment for “wet” AMD has come a long way in recent years and eye care professionals now have Photodynamic therapy (PDT) and anti-VEGF injections to help patients slow down the progression of the disease.

Macular Degeneration Symptoms and Signs
Macular degeneration usually produces a slow, or rarely, sudden painless loss of vision. Early signs of vision loss associated with AMD can include seeing shadowy areas in your central vision or experiencing unusually fuzzy or distorted vision.

An eye care practitioner often detects early signs of macular degeneration before symptoms occur. Usually this is accomplished through a retinal examination. When macular degeneration is suspected, a brief test using an Amsler grid that measures your central vision may be performed. If the eye care practitioner detects some defect in your central vision, such as distortion or blurriness, he or she may order a fluorescein angiography to specifically examine the retinal blood vessels surrounding the macula.

Viewing a chart of black lines arranged in a graph pattern (known as an Amsler grid) is one way to tell if you are having these vision problems. Someone with macular degeneration might see some of the lines as wavy or blurred, with some dark areas at the center. See how an Amsler grid works by taking a macular degeneration test.

Who Gets Macular Degeneration?
• Age-related (65 year and older)
• Having a family member with AMD
• High blood pressure (Hypertension)
• Lighter eye color
• Obesity
• Over-exposure to sunlight
• Smoking
• Drug side effects

How Macular Degeneration Is Treated
Treatments for macular degeneration depend on whether the disease is in its early stage or dry form or more advanced, wet form that can lead to serious vision loss. There are no FDA-approved treatments for dry macular degeneration, although nutritional intervention may be valuable in preventing its progression to the more advanced, wet form. Zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamins A, C and E may help lower the risk for AMD or slow down the progression of dry macular degeneration.

For wet AMD, treatments aimed at stopping abnormal blood vessel growth include FDA-approved drugs of Lucentis, Avastin, Macugen and Visudyne (used with Photodynamic Therapy or PDT).

Although much progress has been made recently in macular degeneration treatment research, complete recovery of vision lost to AMD probably is unlikely. For those who have suffered vision loss, many low vision devices are available to help improve vision by using magnifying lenses and bright lights. Some low vision aids shift images to the periphery for clearer vision.

Viewing a chart of black lines arranged in a graph pattern (known as an Amsler grid) is one way to tell if you are having these vision problems. Someone with macular degeneration might see some of the lines as wavy or blurred, with some dark areas at the center. See how an Amsler grid works by taking a macular degeneration test.

Amsler Grid

Viewing a chart of black lines arranged in a graph pattern (known as an Amsler grid) is one way to tell if you are having these vision problems. Someone with macular degeneration might see some of the lines as wavy or blurred, with some dark areas at the center. See how an Amsler grid works by taking a macular degeneration test.

 

 



With offices in Downers Grove and Hinsdale, Illinois, Larson Eye Center is proud to serve the greater Chicago areas of Naperville, Oakbrook, Burr Ridge, Darien and LaGrange. The dedicated staff and ophthalmologists at LEC would be happy to answer all of your macular degeneration questions.


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