Nothing is more precious than our eye sight. Our eyes allow us to enjoy the beauty of the world around us. So much of what we learn, what we experience, and what we enjoy comes to us through our eyes. As you look at the world around you, you think of how valuable your vision is. Now, think of how your world would be if you were losing your eye sight to Age Related Macula Degeneration. Macular Degeneration is a disease that steals our central vision often without symptoms. Every year millions of people around the world develop Age Related Macular Degeneration, and each day without treatment can bring them one step closer to blindness.
Age related macular degeneration also known as AMD, is the deterioration of the center of the retina called the macula. The macula is the part of the retina which is responsible for our central vision, and our ability to see color and fine detail when looking directly at an object. Age related macular degeneration or AMD is the most common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 55. In the early stages of AMD there is little or no vision loss. As the disease advances, images can become blurred or distorted, or a dark or empty area can appear in the center of the vision. AMD does not cause total blindness, because side vision is not affected. There is some good news related to macular degeneration. With regular check-ups, early diagnosis and new treatment options, doctors are now able to maintain visual acuity in most patients and improve vision in a significant number of patients suffering from this condition.
Age related macular degeneration, is the leading cause of blindness in patients over the age of 50. You could be at risk, and not even know it. While there is no cure for AMD, nutritional supplements, and blue light filtering sunglasses, can go a long way in the prevention of this devastating disease. Ask your eyecare physician for more information about AMD, and how to protect your eyes, from the dangers of blue light.
The most common form of age related macular degeneration is called the dry form. This form of the disease affects up to 90 percent of AMD patients. In the early stages of dry AMD, tiny deposits called drusen, start appearing within the retina. These drusen may be so insignificant, that the patient has few, if any, outward symptoms, and no vision loss. As dry AMD progresses, more disruptive drusen begin to appear. As the size and number of drusen increases, patients may begin to notice a small dark spot in their central vision, causing them problems while reading, or driving at night. Drusen alone are not proof of macular degeneration, but they are an important warning sign. It is critical for patients to understand that as dry AMD progresses it can turn into the more severe form called wet AMD.
A less common, but more serious form of age related macular degeneration is called the wet form. This form of the disease affects about 10 percent of AMD patients. In the wet form of age related macular degeneration, abnormal blood vessels begin to develop underneath the retina. These abnormal blood vessels are unusually delicate, and may bleed or leak fluid. This fluid builds up beneath the retina, causing it to bulge or lift up from the back of the eye. The eye is damaged as a result, causing central vision to appear blurred, wavy, or distorted. Wet AMD can progress rapidly, leading to severe vision problems in the affected eye, and causing permanent vision loss. Early diagnosis of wet AMD is critical. If caught early, treatment options exist which may delay or reduce damage to the eye, and decrease the severity of vision loss.
The most significant symptom of macular degeneration is blurred or distorted central vision. Over time, macular degeneration can affect vision by forming a blurred, darkened or empty area in the center of vision, or distorting one’s surroundings; most noticeably in the appearance of straight lines. Macular degeneration may also cause colors to become less vivid. Blurred or distorted central vision can cause an inability to perform tasks that require precision, like driving a car. Fortunately, this disease does not cause total blindness, because side vision is not affected. If macular degeneration occurs in only one eye, the symptoms of the disease may not be noticed right away, as the good eye compensates for the bad eye. It is essential to take these symptoms seriously, and to speak with an eye care professional immediately if they are developed.
While macular degeneration is a common cause of vision loss, early detection and timely treatment can help delay its progression and preserve your vision. Vision that is lost due to macular degeneration can significantly impact a person’s lifestyle, so prevention is an important part of treating this condition. You can play a part by leading the healthiest lifestyle possible. Quit smoking, control your blood pressure, watch your weight and exercise. Studies have shown that nutrition matters as well, and that taking a prescribed combination of natural eye supplements can slow the development of this condition. However, nutritional supplements may only work in certain situations and are not guaranteed to help. During the early stages of treatment, your eye care professional may write a new prescription for your eyeglasses, and ask you to schedule regular eye exams. You may also be asked to use an at-home eye test, called an Amsler grid, to monitor for changes in your vision. Although dry AMD is far more common than wet AMD, wet AMD requires timely diagnosis and aggressive treatment. Some patients are good candidates for medications that are injected directly into the eye, which are called intravitreal injections. Although intravitreal injections are able to maintain visual acuity in most patients and improve vision in a significant number of patients, injections must be administered as frequently as every month to attain the best results. Another treatment option for wet AMD can involve focusing an intense beam of laser light onto the retina, which can seal leaking blood vessels, or even eliminate them. Should permanent vision loss occur, specialized glasses and low vision equipment such as magnifiers and bright lights may help. Your doctor will discuss which treatment options may be best for you.