There are two types of macular degeneration, a dry form and a wet form. The wet form is sometimes treatable with laser surgery. A new form of treatment called photodynamic therapy (PDT) has recently become available, and early detection is vital to maximize chances of effective treatment.
Macular degeneration in its earliest stages may cause little, if any, noticeable change in vision, but may notice:
- Difficulty reading without extra light and magnification
- Objects appear distorted or blurred, or abnormal in shape, size or color
- The perception that objects “jump” when you try to look right at them
- Difficulty seeing clearly enough to read or drive
- Inability to see details
- Blind spot in center of vision
No one knows what exactly causes macular degeneration, but there are a few constants. For example, we do know that women are at a slightly higher risk than men, and Caucasians are more likely to develop macular degeneration than African Americans. Interestingly, macular degeneration appears to be hereditary in some families but not in others.
You are at an increased risk if you have experienced long-term sun exposure, if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, nutritional deficiencies or if you have suffered from a head injury or infection. Smoking also increases the risk of developing macular degeneration.
Regular eye exams are important for so many reasons. They are particularly important in determining if you are at risk for macular degeneration as early detection may increase the chance of effective treatment. The doctors at ICON Eyecare can identify changes in the macula by looking into your eyes with various instruments. Also, a chart, known as an Amsler Grid, can be used to pick up subtle changes in your vision.
Angiography is the most commonly used diagnostic test for macular degeneration. During the test, a harmless red-orange dye called Fluorescein will be injected into a vein in the arm. The dye will travel through the body, making its way to the blood vessels in the retina. A special camera will take photographs and the pictures will be analyzed to identify atypical new blood vessels or damage to the retina’s lining. The formation of new blood vessels from blood vessels in and under the macula is often the first physical sign that macular degeneration may develop.
A test known as Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) uses light waves to create a contour map of the retina, which shows areas of thickening or fluid accumulation.
How is AMD Treated?
In many cases, low vision evaluation and rehabilitation can improve function in individuals affected by macular degeneration. Your doctor may recommend optical aids and/or diet/lifestyle changes at first, but in more advanced cases, the following treatments may be performed.
In some cases of wet macular degeneration, laser treatment may be recommended to slow or stop the progression of the disease. This involves the use of laser light to destroy abnormal, leaking blood vessels under the retina. This painless treatment is possible when the abnormal blood vessels are far enough away from the macula that it will not damage it.
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)
A relatively new type of treatment for some cases of macular degeneration is called photodynamic therapy, or PDT. In those cases where PDT is appropriate, slowing of the loss of vision and sometimes even improvement in vision is possible. If you are over the age of 65, you should have an annual ophthalmologic examination at ICON Eyecare. Our ophthalmologists can tell you whether you show any signs of age-related macular degeneration.
Of the approximately 16 million people with diabetes in the United States, nearly half will develop some degree of diabetic eye disease, primarily diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among Americans between the ages of 25 and 70. The condition typically develops quietly, without early warning signs. The damage to the eye can occur slowly and is hard to detect without regular and accurate monitoring. Detecting diabetic retinopathy early can save your vision.