Macular degeneration is a medical condition predominantly found in elderly adults in which the center of the inner lining of the eye, known as the macula area of the retina, suffers thinning, atrophy, and in some cases, bleeding. This can result in loss of central vision, which entails inability to see fine details, to read, or to recognize faces.
AMD affects the macula, the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail. It does not hurt, but it causes cells in the macula to die. In some cases, AMD advances so slowly that people notice little change in their vision. In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in both eyes. Regular comprehensive eye exams can detect macular degeneration before the disease causes vision loss. Treatment can slow vision loss. It does not restore vision.
What are the symptoms?
Both dry and wet AMD cause no pain.
For dry AMD: the most common early sign is blurred vision. As fewer cells in the macula are able to function, people will see details less clearly in front of them, such as faces or words in a book. Often this blurred vision will go away in brighter light. If the loss of these light-sensing cells becomes great, people may see a small–but growing–blind spot in the middle of their field of vision.
Macular Degeneration Causes
Age: The likelihood to develop macular degeneration increases with age.
Race: Macular degeneration is more common in whites but occurs in all races.
Gender: Women seem to be at greater risk
Macular degeneration can be inherited. I can also occur in juveniles (juvenile macular degeneration) and may not necessarily be associated with the aging process. Occasionally, injury, infection or inflammation can also damage the delicate tissue of the macula.
The choroid is an underlying layer of blood vessels that nourishes the cones and rods of the retina. A layer of tissue forming the outermost surface of the retina is called the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). The RPE is a critical passageway for nutrients from the choroid to the retina and helps remove waste products from the retina to the choroid.
Macular Degeneration Treatment
There is no specific treatment for dry macular degeneration, although zinc supplements may slow the progression of the disease (see zinc in diet).
Laser photocoagulation (laser surgery to stop the leaking in choroidal blood vessels) may be useful in the early stages of the wet form of the disease. It involves the use of a thermal laser, which burns the abnormal, leaky blood vessels and stops them from spreading.
If exudative AMD is untreated, vision typically deteriorates substantially, often to blindness. However, peripheral vision is usually retained. Results of treatment depend on the size, location, and type of neovascularization. Thermal laser photocoagulation of neovascularization outside the fovea may prevent severe vision loss. Photodynamic therapy, a laser treatment, provides benefit under specific circumstances.
Both eyes are usually affected, although one eye may be affected before the other. The good eye usually compensates for the affected eye and for many years this can disguise the fact that there’s a problem. There’s no pain or redness of the eyes.
A “cold laser” is then shone into the eye which activates the drug stopping the new blood vessels from growing and helping to prevent them causing too much damage to the macular area. This treatment is available on the NHS and has been shown to be effective for many people with “wet” AMD. It can help stop the “wet” AMD progressing to its worst stages though more than one treatment may be needed.