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Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration is a degenerative disease that affects your central vision, and is usually detected in patients who are 65 and older. The macula is located in the back lining of your eye called the retina and this small area contains a high concentration of specialized cells that are responsible for your central vision. There are two types of AMD, Dry and Wet, and both ultimately can interfere with a patient’s central vision. The Dry type of AMD is the most common form, has a slower onset and is characterized by a build up of deposits in the macula. A few deposits can be a normal part of the aging process and do not necessarily compromise vision, however, if they become progressive it is more likely it is AMD. Wet AMD has a much quicker onset and significantly impairs vision if not treated right away. The Wet type of AMD gets its name because it’s characterized by the growth of abnormal blood vessels that leak blood and fluid in the macula. Patients that have AMD will usually notice a change in their vision while reading or driving because central vision is required for these daily activities. With the Dry type, patients may find that words are becoming blurrier on a page and find they need more lighting and magnification to focus on a target. Patients who have Wet AMD will usually notice a sudden change in their vision, and typically see a loss in vision when they look straight ahead. They may describe words on a page as missing. In both types, patients may also see straight lines as wavy or distorted.

All patients over the age of 50 should already be getting annual dilated eye exams because of the increased prevalence of many ocular diseases after this age but if you have multiple risk factors for AMD you should make it a priority to schedule your dilated exams. Increased age, smoking, family history, and having cardiovascular disease are all risk factors for AMD. Both forms of AMD are treated with eye vitamins that have specific formulations that have been shown to prevent further damage to the macula. Studies have shown that these vitamins do not have any benefit for patients without AMD or who have an early stage of AMD; therefore most providers do not prescribe these vitamins to patients who have no signs of the disease. It is important that your eye doctor is the one to recommend the specific formulation for you and it is always a good idea to mention the addition of ocular vitamins to your family doctor as well. Laser treatments and intravitreal injections are other treatment options that have been approved for patients that have Wet AMD. These work by inhibiting the growth of the abnormal blood vessels in the macula. Even with these treatment options, AMD can be a debilitating disease that can start with a patient being asymptomatic but eventually leading to blindness, therefore, it is important that patients are educated and take charge of their ocular health.

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