Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 60. It occurs when the small central portion of the retina, known as the macula, deteriorates. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of the eye.
There are two types of macular degeneration: dry and wet. Most of the time, Macular Degeneration begins as the dry type, but in 10-20% of cases it progresses to the wet type. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is almost always bilateral (occurs in both eyes), but does not necessarily progress at the same rate in both eyes. Therefore, it is possible to experience the wet type in one eye and the dry type in the other eye.
Dry AMD is known as the atrophic type, affecting approximately 80-90% of individuals with the disease. Its exact cause is unknown and it tends to progress more slowly than the wet type, but there is not an approved treatment or cure. In dry age-related macular degeneration, small white or yellowish deposits, called drusen, form on the retina beneath the macula, causing it to deteriorate over time.
The wet type of AMD, known as neovascular, affects approximately 10-15% of people with age-related macular degeneration, but it accounts for approximately 90% of all cases of severe vision loss from the disease. Therefore, the wet type of macular degeneration is considered the worse diagnosis of the two. But it’s important to remember that the dry type of AMD often progresses to the wet type.
In wet age-related macular degeneration, abnormal blood vessels form under the retina and begin to grow toward the macula. These new blood vessels are abnormal, so they tend to break and bleed, and the leaks of blood damage the macula by causing the macula to pull away from its base. This tends to cause a rapid and severe loss of central vision ability.
The FDA recently approved the Implantable Miniature Telescope (IMT) for End-Stage Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Read more about it here. This telescope does not treat the disease, but rather gives the patient some form of sight after the disease has progressed to vision loss. At this time, vitamin supplementation for dry AMD and anti-angiogenic injections for wet AMD are the best known treatments. Many clinical trials are underway to discover a more effective drug or surgical treatment for macular degeneration but at this time, it seems that prevention is the best defense against the disease.
Here’s a list of 7 suggestions that may help prevent the development of Macular Degeneration. This list is not intended to be exhaustive. There are many studies currently exploring natural ways of preventing and treating AMD.
If you are currently suffering from Macular Degeneration, or know someone who is, take solace in the fact that the medical community is committed to finding an effective cure for this disease. If you are concerned about developing AMD, there are many actions for prevention that can be utilized as well. Comment below if you or someone you love suffer from this awful disease. What have you found to treat it or cope with the vision loss?
Dr. Jenna Zigler
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