Professional Optometry: Your Fayetteville Macular Degeneration Specialists
Fayetteville eye doctor, Dr. Lieberman, explains Age Related Macular Degeneration, treatment and prevention
Macular Degeneration is an eye disease that affects millions of older Americans. It is the leading cause of blindness and at present, is considered incurable, although treatment for macular degeneration has improved greatly in the last two decades.
What Is Macular Degeneration?
The macula is the central portion of the retina, which is the film that records the images we see for the brain to interpret. Macular degeneration causes that central retina to deteriorate which, in turn, can affect vision. The macula is responsible for our most fine-tuned vision and is the center most focus point for the eye. When working correctly, the macula takes very detailed images and communicates them to the brain via the optic nerve. When the cells of the macula get sick and begin to deteriorate, it cannot record those images correctly, resulting in vision changes. Initially, those changes are minor to none but as the disease progresses, vision may be wavy or blurred, and in later stages of the disease, central vision may be lost altogether. However, even with advanced macular degeneration, peripheral vision remains intact. Peripheral vision is not as sharp as the central vision of a healthy macula so in advanced stages, macular degeneration can be devastating.
Types of Macular Degeneration
There are two types of macular degeneration, known as atrophic, or “dry”, and exudative, or “wet”. About 85 to 90 percent of all cases are atrophic with the rest being exudative.
Within the two types are three stages of macular degeneration: Early, Intermediate, and Late. The early stage of AMD (age-related Macular Degeneration) is characterized by no real visual symptoms but on closer look during an eye exam, the diagnosis is made by the presence of drusen, or yellow deposits in the macula. The intermediate stage of AMD may cause some vision loss but may not have any real noticeable symptoms. An AMD eye exam would show larger drusen and/or pigment disruption in the macula. Vision loss would become noticeable in late stage AMD.
Reducing the Risk of AMD
The number one risk factor for AMD is age as it most likely effects those over 60, it can, however, occur earlier We recommend our patients in Fayetteville to come for an eye exam once they enter their 50’s to assess their risk factors and discuss in more detail methods of prevention. Smoking, race, and family history/genetics are other risk factors for AMD. Smoking doubles the risk of macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is more common in Caucasians than African-Americans or Hispanics. Those with a family history of AMD are at a higher risk for developing it. It may be possible to reduce your risk of AMD or slow its progression by living a healthy lifestyle including avoiding smoking, exercising regularly, eating a diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish, and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol under control.
Macular Degeneration Eye Exam in Fayetteville NC
Macular degeneration is detected through a comprehensive, regular eye examination. Your eye doctor not only checks your visual acuity, but also examines the macula and retina during the dilated portion of the exam, looking for any pigment changes or drusen present in the macula. Early AMD does not require treatment although healthy lifestyle choices as discussed above are recommended by your optometrists. In intermediate to late stage AMD, specific nutritional supplements are recommended based on studies at the National Eye Institute which found that taking certain high-dose vitamins every day can slow progression of the disease in people who have intermediate stage AMD.
Advanced neovascular AMD typically results in severe vision loss. There are treatment options available to attempt to minimize that vision loss in advanced cases. These treatments are not a cure and the AMD may progress even with treatment. Injection therapy is the most-used treatment for “wet” macular degeneration. Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is injected into the eye, typically monthly, in a series of injections. In addition your optometrist will guide you on coping with vision loss.