What is Macular Degeneration?
The macular degeneration explains a number of pathologic but highly common conditions which affect the macula and ultimately the central vision. The degeneration happens when a part of the retina deteriorates. The macula is used for reading small prints, street signs and is also used to thread a needle.
Also known as age related macular degeneration, this condition is due to the natural aging process and that is why it can be seen in many old people. There are a large number of macular problems of which age related macular degeneration is the most common. The symptoms of macular degeneration are distorted or dark areas of the central vision, permanent loss of central vision and blurriness. The peripheral vision is not affected by macular degeneration.
What is Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) ?
Macula (a part of the retina) is affected by this eye disease. From the eye, the retina sends the light to the brain that allows a person to see clearly. Wet and dry are the two types of age related macular degeneration. The progression of AMD is so slow that it gets difficult to notice vision changes. In many cases it has been seen that AMD has progressed so fast that resulted in vision loss in both the eyes. The condition of AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in older people. The central vision is affected by this condition which is required for activities such as sewing, driving and reading.
Symptoms of Age Related Macular Degeneration
- The appearance of empty or dark area in the center of vision.
- Gradual vision loss that poses difficulty in seeing the objects clearly.
- Straight lines appear crooked or wavy.
- Objects appear distorted in shape.
- Loss of clear color vision.
Causes of Age Related Macular Degeneration
- Smoking : Smoking increases the chances of AMD. It has also been seen that by discontinuing smoking, the chances of AMD reduces.
- What to Eat : The progression of AMD can be reduced by taking zinc and vitamins A, C and E for the people who have developed the condition of AMD.
- Age : Age is regarded as one of the prime factors of AMD. The natural aging process may result in the condition of AMD.
- Sunlight : The chances of AMD increases if there is an overexposure to the sunlight.
- Genes : There are few genes in some people that are associated with development of AMD.
- Gender : It has been examined that there are more chances of developing AMD in women than in men.
Diagnosis of Age Related Macular Degeneration
It is possible to notice signs and symptoms of the early stage of macular degeneration. An optometrist will examine the eye by conducting a comprehensive eye exam along with other tests. These tests are done in determining the condition of macular degeneration.
Dry Age Related Macular Degeneration
Dry AMD is the most common type of AMD and is also regarded as the least serious type. When there is a damage to the macula cells due to insufficient nutrients which also results in building up of waste products known as drusens. This process leads to the development of dry AMD. The loss of vision is a gradual process that might take several years. Rarely it has been seen that a person developing dry AMD will also gradually develop wet AMD as well. The 3 stages of dry AMD –
- Early AMD
- Intermediate AMD
- Advanced dry AMD
Wet Age Related Macular Degeneration
The development of wet AMD is due to the formation of abnormal blood vessels from under the macula that damages its cells. This condition is determined as the most serious one unlike dry AMD.
Treatment for Age Related Macular Degeneration
The dry AMD condition has no cure but a magnifying lens can be used to make the reading easy. However, there are treatment options for wet AMD that includes –
- Laser Surgery : This treatment is not so commonly used. In the eye, the laser beam is aimed at the new blood vessels in order to destroy them.
- Injections : In order to slow down the wet AMD progression, drugs are injected into the eye. The uncontrolled high levels of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) get secreted from the eyes. The formation of new abnormal blood vessels is due to the growth of VEGF. To block the effect of VEGF, anti-VEGF injection therapy is used. Multiple injections may be required in this treatment.
- Photodynamic Therapy : Photodynamic treatment requires the use of laser treatment of the chosen retinal areas. Verteporfin is a drug which is injected into the vein of the arm. Through the blood vessels, the drug travels in the body. The doctor then uses a laser beam into the eye so as to activate the drug present in the blood vessels. The drug then gets activated and destroys the newly formed blood vessels thereby it also decreases the rate of vision loss.
Advanced Age Related Macular Degeneration
Both the advanced dry and wet forms are known as advanced AMD. This advanced AMD can occur in one eye that has one or more forms or in the same eye. This condition results in vision loss.
Benefits of Early Detection of Age Related Macular Degeneration
The early detection of AMD increases the possibility of preventing the vision loss. The treatments can prove more effective if the condition AMD is diagnosed early.
Cost of Age Related Macular Degeneration
The cost of AMD is very cost-effective in India as compared to other developed countries of the world. The treatment for AMD depends upon the stage of this disease.