Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, can slowly degrade your vision with few symptoms until you have a major loss of eyesight. Regular eye examinations are the best defense against this incurable eye disease. Here is what you need to know about AMD and how to keep it from stealing your vision.
AMD Damages the Retina
There are two forms of AMD and both damage the retina. If sufficiently damaged, you can lose all or part of your vision. Your eye doctor will determine which form you have and recommend the appropriate treatment options.
Wet AMD - With this form of AMD, tiny blood vessels with weak walls develop on the surface of the retina. Fluid leaks out of these weak blood vessels onto the retina. The fluid accumulates and prevents light from hitting the retina. Your vision will begin to be blurry and you'll notice that you need more light to read clearly.
Dry AMD - This form of AMD produces a dry yellow deposit on the surface of the retina, often over the central area called the macula. As the material collects on the retina, you'll begin to see dark areas across your central vision. When this becomes severe, you'll lose all sight at the center of your vision.
Treating Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Early detection and treatment of AMD is important because any vision loss cannot be reversed. Treatment focuses on slowing down additional loss of eyesight. The type of treatment you get depends on the form of AMD that you are experiencing.
Treating Wet AMD
Preventing growth of weak blood vessels - Your doctor can inject a medication directly into your eye to stop the growth of these blood vessels. You will likely need regular injections to prevent them from developing. Weak blood vessels that have already formed on the retina will shrink and be absorbed by the body. Some of the accumulated fluid on the retina will also be absorbed.
Reducing existing blood vessels - For more advanced wet AMD, where there are many weak blood vessels on the retina, your doctor can treat you with a medication that works its way into the eye and the blood vessels. A special light shined in your eye activates this medication, causing the weak blood vessels to shrink. You may also need to have regular treatments with this medication.
Laser Surgery - An eye surgeon like Todd S. Kirk, MD can use a laser to target the weak blood vessels and dry them up. Your body will absorb the tissue from the weak blood vessels and some of the fluid that has accumulated on the retina.
Treating Dry AMD
This is the more difficult form of AMD to treat. With some treatments, there is a risk of developing the wet form of AMD.
Dietary changes - Your eye doctor can recommend vitamin and mineral enriched diets that can slow down the development of the dry patches on the retina. The vitamins A, C and E and the minerals copper and zinc affect the formation of the yellow deposits.
Surgical Lens Implantation - An artificial lens can be inserted into your eye to improve your central vision. This doesn't impact the formation of the dry deposits, but slows down your loss of central vision.
Laser Surgery - The eye surgeon can use a laser to remove some of the dry material from the retina. This approach has the highest risk of causing wet AMD to develop as a result of the treatment.