The full name for this eye disease is Age-Related Macular Degeneration or AMD. This problem occurs when age-related changes occur in the central portion of the retina, an area called the macula. As this area deteriorates, blank or dark areas or distortions may begin to affect the center of one’s eyesight. That’s normally the part of our eyesight vital to many daily activities such as driving, reading, working on a computer or recognizing the faces of friends.
When AMD damages a person’s central eyesight, they will normally retain their peripheral eyesight, but this eyesight is not as sharp. A person may be classified as legally blind because they cannot function normally when central sight is damaged. They may need special instruction on how to function independently.
MACULAR DEGENERATION CAUSES
As a person ages, they may develop yellow deposits within the cells of the macula. These deposits are called drusen. When a doctor examines the inside of a patient’s eye to diagnose AMD, they are looking for these drusen. Eighty percent of people with AMD suffer from this type of the disease. This is called dry macular degeneration.
A small number of people with AMD experience the growth of tiny new blood vessels in the macula. These abnormal vessels leak blood which causes scarring of the macula. This is called wet AMD. Sight loss is normally significantly faster with wet AMD.
MACULAR DEGENERATION SYMPTOMS AND SIGNS
An early form of AMD may exist but cause no symptoms or pain. What normally sends people to their doctor for help is a symptom like one of these:
- Sudden or gradual loss of central vision
- Difficulty reading
- Difficulty perceiving detail
- Distortions in vision, such as straight lines appearing wavy
TREATING MACULAR DEGENERATION
For dry AMD, there are no proven treatments yet. There are ways to slow down or prevent more serious symptoms, which you can find below.
For wet AMD, using a laser to seal off broken, abnormal blood vessels can help prevent the progression of the disease but it cannot restore lost vision. There are also some medications that have been helpful in stopping the growth of new blood vessels.
Fortunately, there are lifestyle and dietary changes that have been helpful in preventing this problem or reducing the amount of damage done.
- Consume cold water fish with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon
- Supplements containing lutein and zeaxanthin have been shown to help
- Stop smoking immediately or don’t start
- Protect eyes from ultraviolet light
- Get vigorous exercise a few times a week
- Keep your weight within normal levels for your size and age
The most important way to prevent damage to your eyes from AMD is to schedule regular visits with your eye doctor. It’s important to see the early signs of this problem for you to have a chance at warding off the worst of its effects. To experience the excellence and personal care of St. Michael’s Eye and Laser Institute and find out if you are showing any signs of AMD, please call us: 727-500-2020.