January 24, 2022
There are a range of different conditions that can affect both the health of our eyes and our eyesight. One of those which isn’t particularly well known, but is surprisingly common, is age-related macular degeneration, or AMD for short. Studies estimate that as many as 11 million people in the United States currently have some degree of age-related macular degeneration. However, this number is expected to double by 2050.
The macular is an area of cells in the middle of the retina, which is responsible for receiving light and turning it into electrical signals which are sent to the brain and in turn tell us what we can see. There are just two types of macular degeneration known as ‘wet’ and ‘dry’. Let’s look at them in more detail.
Dry macular degeneration is the most common form of the condition and occurs very slowly, usually over many years. It’s caused by the natural deterioration of the cells of the macula, which die and then are not renewed. There is nothing particularly ‘dry’ about the condition. The term is just used to differentiate this type of AMD from the wet variety.
The trouble with dry AMD is that the symptoms develop just as slowly as the condition does, and this can make it very hard to detect yourself. Instead, most cases are picked up at routine comprehensive eye exams when your eye doctor looks at the health of your retina.
Reduced central vision in one or both eyes
Distorted vision, such as lines that should be straight (like a ruler) appearing bent or wavy
Blurred near vision, such as when reading
Difficulty adapting to low levels as light, such as adjusting to the light levels in a dimly lit room
Needing to use brighter light when reading or doing close-up work
Bright colors seem duller than usual
Wet AMD is fairly rare, accounting for around just 10% of the cases. This type of age-related macular degeneration occurs when the blood vessels that provide the eye with the oxygen and nutrients that it needs to be healthy grow abnormally. These abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the retina and leak fluid or blood. This causes a range of visual symptoms.
The symptoms of wet AMD are the same as those of dry AMD. However, they tend to develop much more quickly and worsen rapidly unless treatment is provided.
Unfortunately, any vision that is lost due to either type of macular degeneration is irreversible. There also isn’t currently a cure for dry AMD. Instead, patients must learn to live with their condition. The good news is that there are visual aids that can help, such as magnifying lenses and software/apps that can make technology like phones and computers easier to use. You may also find that brighter lighting around your home is helpful.
It’s important that wet AMD is treated as quickly as possible to prevent any further vision loss. The most effective treatment is a type of injection called an anti-VEGF which is injected directly into the eye. These drugs work by blocking the actions of a molecule that makes blood vessels leaky.
If you would like more information about the different types of macular degeneration, or to schedule an appointment, please contact Maine Coast Eye Care in Rockport, Maine at 207-887-0022 today.