What is macular degeneration and who does it affect? Where does it come from and is there anyway we can prevent it? What are the symptoms and can I do anything to prevent it? If I have AMD, where can I go to get help or resources I need to slow or stop the progression? These are questions we need to ask ourselves as we age along with check ups every year for prevention.
Age Related Macular Degeneration Definition
Macular degeneration affects and damages the macula of the eye. The macula is the central portion of the retina at the back of the eye. One of it’s many jobs are allowing us to see fine details with a certain amount of clarity. Things such as threading a needle or reading a book becomes a task due to the blurriness or darkness in the center of our vision.
Who Does AMD Affect?
Age related macular degeneration is an age related condition which affects people who are 55 and older. We are now finding out through various types of research and observation, age related macular degeneration is an inherited trait. 1 in 5 families will have age related macular degeneration as they age yet research has shown yearly check-ups have slowed the progression of this condition when detected early. It affects the central portion of your vision yet peripheral is unharmed in most cases. It causes issues with driving, reading and performing activities which are very detailed or use your central vision. Peripheral vision is unaffected in most cases yet left unattended, could cause further harm.
There are two stages concerning age related macular degeneration. One is more common while the other, causes more damage and could lead to total blindness.
The Dry Stage is the most common form of age related macular degeneration. The dry stage affects the delicate tissues of the macula causing it to thin and loose its functionality. This in turn, causes blurred vision which is a common symptom. You may need more light for reading, trouble reading peoples faces or reading a passage in a book or newspaper. Dry stage of age related macular degeneration can occur in one eye or the in both eyes affecting overall vision. The dry stage however, doesn’t affect the eyes as predominately as the wet stage unless left untreated. Often times left untreated, the dry stage infuses into the wet stage causing far more damage.
The Wet Stage is the most damaging form of the two. Wet stage of age related macular degeneration affects the blood vessels in your eyes, causing them to become abnormal, swell and hemorrhage and eventually, bursting or leaking. This in turn, causes scar tissue which damages the surrounding areas and begins to cause the vessels to leak. The central vision is quickly lost more so than in the dry stage where it takes time. If either stage is left unchecked, unattended or untreated-symptoms and conditions will progress rapidly.
Detection of age related macular degeneration is quite simple yet very specific and defined. A visual acuity test is given to measure how well you see at various distances and eventually becomes a baseline or standard of sight; to know where you are currently. Next, a dilated eye exam is performed to widen your pupils. This allows the eye doctor to examine your retina and your optic nerve for current eye problems and/or age related macular degeneration. A tonometry is used to measure the pressure inside your eye which will tell the eye doctor if any pressure is lost or there are any leaks. Finally, during the tests, you’re asked to look at an Amsler Grid. An Amsler grid is a pattern of a grid which resembles a checkerboard. As you’re covering each eye staring at a strategic black dot, you may or may not notice that the straight line(s) in the pattern appear wavy or even missing. A combination of all the tests administered and a consultation with your Optometrist, may or may not reveal age related macular degeneration.
Treatment varies depending on the stage of age related macular degeneration and progression. Photodynamic Therapy is one treatment which has shown to slow or stop the progression of age related macular degeneration. An injection of medicine called visudyne into the blood stream to help the breakdown of the vessels or prevention of scar tissue is followed up by brief laser treatments. Several treatments may be necessary for the condition to digress or prevent further damage from taking place. There is also laser surgery to help correct, clean up or repair damage done by the vessels or weakened tissues. Finally, there are injections which are injected into the eye(s) to help the growth of new abnormal blood cells to help relieve pressure and blocks the growth factor.
As discussed prior, age related macular degeneration is researched to be hereditary. 1 in 5 families will be diagnosed with a stage of age related macular degeneration but there are other ways we can help ourselves. It’s believed high energy light rays or exposure can jumpstart the beginning stages of age related macular degeneration. Constant and high exposure to ultraviolet light can play a factor in the cause of age related macular degeneration along with smoking, obesity, family history, gender and race.
Even though age related macular degeneration is thought and researched to be hereditary, there are precautions we can take to help prevent the damage caused by age related macular degeneration. First, a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables are a must. Inside each vegetable and fruit, are proteins such as Lutein and Zeaxanthin. Even though there are only small amounts present, any amount could help in the prevention of this condition. Second, there is a supplement, which is approved by the FDA and highly suggested, in fighting age related macular degeneration. Meso Zeaxanthin contains the Lutein and Zeaxanthin used to help block the occurrence and progression of age related macular degeneration. Doctors can prescribe Zeaxanthin in a 10mg form along with your diet and intake of fruits and vegetables. The skin of salmon, oysters and other seafood, supplemented with fruits, vegetables and Meso Zeaxanthin, can be combined to help prevent age related macular degeneration.
Resources are becoming more readily available for age related macular degeneration. There are several websites, google searches, books and videos on age related macular degeneration which will allow you to arm yourself with the proper tools. The best thing you can do is educate yourself on age related macular degeneration and all the facets that are incorporated. Providing your local Optometrist or doctor with the proper information and tools necessary can help improve your chances and fight against age related macular degeneration.