The macula is the central part of the retina. When it breaks down, loss of vision is likely to ensue. The condition results in distortion in the central section of the field of vision, but the side (peripheral) vision remains unaltered. The leading cause of impaired reading or detailed vision is macular degeneration. It is most common in people over the age of 60, but people as young as 40 can also be affected. With aging comes the breaking down of retinal tissue as well as the gradual deterioration of vision that causes the macular to lose its function. In some circumstances, the condition is aggravated by leaking blood vessels responsible for nourishing the retina. In this circumstance, scar tissue starts to grow, and so do abnormal blood vessels. These new blood vessels will commonly leak, often resulting in blurred or distorted vision. Central vision can be affected in several ways by the dense scar-tissue formation.
Causes of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
The most common cause of macular degeneration is the ordinary process of aging. Some types of infections or injuries can cause macular degeneration as well. However, genetics also plays a large as the condition can also be hereditary.
Risk Factors for Age-Related Macular Degeneration
- Advanced Age – AMD is most common in individuals who are over the age of 50.
- Genetics – There are specific genes that are responsible for the development of AMD, and those genes tend to run in families.
- Obesity and Heart Disease – Individuals who are overweight or who have heart disease are at increased risk for developing AMD.
- Race – Individuals who are Caucasian have an increased risk of developing AMD when compared to other races.
- Tobacco Usage – Individuals who smoke or who are exposed to cigarette smoke may be at an increased risk for AMD.
Symptoms of AMD
The primary symptom of AMD is a progressive central vision loss. Individuals with the condition do not typically experience pain or discomfort. Instead, they may first notice that their central vision is a bit blurry, and they may have trouble reading or seeing when driving.
If you are around the age of 50 and notice any change in your vision, it is a good idea to schedule an immediate appointment with Theobald Family Eyecare in order to determine if you have signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Eye Disease Progression
AMD typically occurs in two stages. The first stage is known as dry AMD, which can occur in one or both eyes and affects about 80 percent of those with the condition. This form of AMD does not cause leaking in the blood vessels behind the retina and macula. Instead, the macula tends to get thinner over the course of several years and drusen can start to develop on the macula, which are clumps of protein that appear yellow.
Late-stage AMD is known as wet AMD. This form of the condition is diagnosed when the blood vessels behind the macula start to bulge and leak, causing an increase in vision loss. As the original blood vessels deteriorate, the macula may grow new blood vessels, which are not as strong as the original and can cause even more leaking. Individuals with wet AMD may notice a sudden change in their visual acuity.
AMD Treatment Options with Our Eye Doctor
The first step to treating AMD is getting diagnosed early. This means it is vitally important to get yearly eye examinations that check for damage to the macula and retina, especially if you are 50 years of age or older. The dry form of the condition does not have any form of treatment, but certain vitamins and supplements, like lutein and vitamins E and C, may slow the disease progression. Glasses and contact lenses can help improve visual acuity so that you can still read and drive.
Wet AMD has several treatment options available. The first treatment option involves taking medications that stop the growth of new blood vessels in the retina, which can help preserve central vision for longer. In serious cases, the new blood vessels may need to be eliminated with a laser. This is called photodynamic therapy (PDT) and is reserved for the worst cases of wet AMD.
To schedule an appointment to have your eyes examined for eye diseases and conditions, like AMD, contact Theobald Family Eye Care today.