Macular Degeneration

Are you noticing that your vision is getting more and more blurry as you age? Or are you seeing visual distortions more frequently than you used to?

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, having trouble seeing in dim light, or colors aren’t vivid as they used to be, you could be suffering from macular degeneration.

If you think you may have macular degeneration contact your eye doctor immediately to get treatment to prevent vision loss from this dangerous condition.

What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration is a disease that causes progressive loss of vision. If left untreated, it causes blindness.

Macular degeneration affects the central part of your retina, known as the macula. 

Macular degeneration primarily affects senior adults. Therefore, it’s called age-related macular degeneration, or ARMD. 

There are two primary types of macular degeneration. They are dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration.

Dry ARMD progresses over time with deposits underneath the retina that can lead to damage to the macula. It can sometimes become wet ARMD, which can cause a more abrupt change in vision.  Blood vessels can grow which can leak and bleed into the retina. This type of ARMD can result in severe vision loss if untreated.

Age Related Macular Degeneration

Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD or AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in America for people over the age of 60. It primarily affects the macula, the portion of the retina that is critical for tasks like reading and watching television. Early in the course of the disease, patients will typically experience blurring or distortion of the center portion of their vision. In later stages, patients may lose the center of their vision entirely. Peripheral vision is typically spared. There are two different types of ARMD: the “dry,” non-exudative type and the “wet” exudative type.

Macular Degeneration Chart

“Dry ARMD” occurs when drusen (small yellowish deposits) develop beneath the retina and can be seen in the macula upon retinal examination. These drusen can cause loss of both the retina and the pigmented layer beneath the retina. When this occurs, central vision can be lost. The only known treatment to slow the progression of dry ARMD is the use of certain anti-oxidant vitamin supplements that have been proven beneficial by the Age-Releated Eye Disease Study (AREDS).

“Wet ARMD”, also known as exudative ARMD, does not have phases like dry ARMD. Advanced ARMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels and scar tissue begin to grow behind the macula. These blood vessels can leak blood and fluid beneath the macula. This blood and fluid can move the macula away from it’s normal postion. This process doesn’t cause any pain, but the first symptoms are often a waviness to what would normally be straight lines.

How is Macular Degeneration Diagnosed?

Macular degeneration gets diagnosed with a few different tests. First, your eye doctor will do a basic eye exam to look at the inside of your eye and check how well you can see.

They might also do a procedure called fluorescein angiography. During this procedure, your doctor injects dye into your arm. Then they take photos of your eye as the dye travels through your blood vessels.

You could also need an optical coherence tomography (OCT). OCT takes a detailed photo of your eye, which helps your eye doctor build a model or map of it.

What are the Treatment Options?

Treatment will depend on what type of ARMD you have and how far your vision loss has progressed. Your doctor may recommend diet changes and vitamin supplements, medications, or injections of medications into your eye.

Lifestyle Changes

There is currently no way to treat dry ARMD. However, tweaking your diet might help. A healthy diet and vitamin supplements can help maintain good general health.

Patients might be able to slow down dry ARMD with a specific combination of vitamins and minerals each day. Adding foods like fish, dark leafy greens, and yellow and red fruits and vegetables to your diet is also a good idea.

Your eye doctor can recommend the diet and lifestyle changes that could benefit you most. Smoking can significantly increase the progression of macular degeneration; therefore not smoking is very important.

Medication 

Wet ARMD is treated by your retina specialist with medications given to your eye. The medications used to treat retina problems like macular degeneration are anti-VEGFs.

Vascular endothelial growth factor or VEGF is a protein your body produces when growing more blood vessels. VEGF begins to show up in places that your body is developing new blood vessels.

Anti-VEGF drugs inhibit the growth of blood vessels. These drugs decrease the number of abnormal blood vessels in your retina.

Your eye doctor will give you the medicine through a small injection in your eye. You may need to return to your doctor’s office for continued injections every four to six weeks.

Anti-VEGF medications can help patients gain back some of the eyesight they have lost as well as prevent further vision loss. While these treatments are generally safe, there are potential risks.

The risks of anti-VEGF injections include infection which is very rare. Some bleeding at the injection site can occur but this does not affect vision or cause pain. It is usually a cosmetic annoyance for a few days to a week. Your eye doctor will discuss the potential risks and upsides of anti-VEGF treatments with you to help you decide if they are right for you.

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in adults over sixty in the country. It is a dangerous condition that only a specialized eye doctor can treat. 

The only way to avoid vision loss from ARMD is to have regular visits with your eye doctor. Schedule an appointment with Retina Consultants of Austin in Austin, TX, today!

The physicians of Retina Consultants of Austin are constantly evaluating new therapeutics for the treatment of both dry and wet ARMD. Please ask any of our doctors or staff to see if a clinical trial is right for you.