February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month
You may not know it, but February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month. Whether you have someone close to you struggling with this degenerative disease or this is the first time you’re hearing about it, it’s critical to know what you could be dealing with in regards to your health down the road. My EyeCare can help!
What Is It?
Age-related macular degeneration (or AMD) is a progressive eye disease where the small, central portion of your retina, called the macula, wears down. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue in the back of your eye. This disease most commonly affects people over the age of 60, although there is another form of degeneration, called Stargardt disease, which can affect children and young adults. Although AMD doesn’t cause blindness, it can cause severe vision issues and loss, which can become permanent.
There are two main types of AMD, which are the wet and dry form. The dry form of age-related macular degeneration takes form with yellow deposits on your macula, called drusen. Having smaller deposits on your eyes may not cause vision problems at first, but as they grow they may dim or distort your vision, especially while reading. As the condition worsens, the light-sensitive cells in your macula may get thinner and eventually die, in which case, you may develop blind spots in the middle of your vision. Most people will suffer from the dry form of AMD, although the dry form can progress to the wet form of AMD as well. The wet form of age-related macular degeneration occurs when blood vessels grow underneath your macula and start to leak blood and fluid into your retina. Straight lines will appear wavy, and you may have blind spots and lose your central vision. The blood vessels can eventually form scars, leaving you with permanent loss of central vision.
What Are The Symptoms?
The symptoms of AMD are typically a dark, blurry area in front of your eye, worse or different color perception, and worse or less clear vision, which could be blurry, or making it difficult to drive or read fine print. The symptoms may be less noticeable at first, but if it starts to affect both of your eyes or is getting worse, see your eye doctor to get a thorough exam to be on the safe side. People are more susceptible to the disease if there’s a family history of it, so be sure to know if anyone else in your family suffers from AMD. Other factors that can contribute to your chances of AMD are if you smoke, have high cholesterol or blood pressure, eat lots of saturated fats, are light-skinned, female and have lighter-colored eyes.
Visiting your eye doctor on a regular basis can help diagnose this degenerative disease during yearly eye exams. If it looks like you may have AMD, you may have follow up tests to fully diagnose. One such test, called an angiography, a doctor injects dye into your vein, which travels through your bloodstream and eventually into your eyes, where a doctor can take photos of your retina to determine if the blood vessels are leaking into your macula.
Are There Treatments?
Although there is no cure for AMD, there are a few treatments that can aid in slowing down the disease and helping you retain your vision a little longer. Certain anti-angiogenesis medications, such as aflibercept, bevacizumab, ranibizumab, and pegaptanib can block the creation of blood vessels and leaking associated with them. These medications have reversed some vision loss from the wet form of AMD, but will require multiple treatments. High-energy laser light has been found to be effective when used to destroy any abnormal blood vessels in your eyes. Photodynamic laser therapy involves injecting a light-sensitive drug into your bloodstream, where it is absorbed by the abnormal blood vessels in your body. A doctor then shines a light into your eyes, which triggers the medication to damage the blood vessels, thus stopping the leaking into your macula before it begins.
If you are struggling with your eyesight and are not sure what could be the cause, it’s vital to see your eye doctor right away. Being prepared with your family history and receiving yearly exams can help you catch this disease early, and begin treating it fast. My EyeCare can help you in seeking treatment and back to seeing clearly. Call us today!