Macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss, is the deterioration of the central portion of the retina. As a result, patients with this condition may notice wavy or blurred vision as it progresses. Fortunately, treatments can help slow its progression and reduce the risk of central vision loss. Dr. Paul S. Gulbas and Dr. Mark J. Gallardo provide diagnosis of macular degeneration and treatment options at their El Paso, TX, office. Macular degeneration is a serious, incurable eye disease. Regular eye exams are crucial to catch and treat the disease early and prevent vision loss.
Macular degeneration (sometimes called age-related macular degeneration or AMD), is the primary cause of vision loss in more than ten million Americans. The macular is responsible for your eyes’ direct, central vision and controls your ability to read, drive a car, and recognize faces and color. Changes are often gradual, making early symptoms difficult to detect. Symptoms can include lines that appear wavy or bent, trouble adapting to low light levels, a decrease in color intensity or brightness, difficulty recognizing faces, increased visual haziness, and blurry or blind spots in your central vision. Macular degeneration does not affect your peripheral vision. If you experience any changes in your central vision, you should see your doctor immediately.
Causes of macular degeneration are still unknown, but a combination of hereditary and environmental factors such as smoking and diet may play a role. As you age, your risk for macular degeneration increases. It is most common in patients over age 65, and it is more common in women than in men. Your genetics and race may also put you at risk. Exposure to second-hand smoke, obesity, and cardiovascular disease are all risk factors as well. If left untreated, macular degeneration can lead to legal blindness.
Age-related macular degeneration starts out as the dry form, but if it goes undiagnosed or untreated, it may progress to wet AMD. Dry AMD is characterized by drusen—yellow deposits that form under the retina. Wet AMD is caused by abnormal blood vessels that leak fluid or blood behind the retina. Symptoms of wet AMD are similar to those of dry AMD, but appear suddenly and progress rapidly. Wet AMD may also include additional symptoms such as a blurry or blind spot in your central field of vision and overall hazy vision.
Similar tests are used to diagnose both dry and wet AMD. Your doctor will begin with a thorough eye exam, including an examination of the back of your eye, looking for any presence of drusen to indicate dry AMD, or the presence of fluid and blood along with drusen to indicate wet AMD. An Amsler grid may be used to test for defects in your central vision by noting if the lines look wavy or faded to you. Other test options include angiographies that inject colored dyes to highlight abnormal blood vessels in the eye, and a non-invasive imaging test to identify thinning, thickening, or swelling of the retina.
Early diagnosis and treatment is key to slowing the progression of dry AMD and to preventing wet AMD. Treatment options to slow the progression of dry AMD include taking vitamins and supplements, eating a healthy and nutritious diet, quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke, low vision rehabilitation to adapt to your changing vision, and a telescopic lens implant to improve and magnify your field of vision. Medication is typically used as the first line of treatment for wet AMD to stop abnormal blood vessel growth. These medications are injected directly into the eye and may require injections every four weeks. Your vision may recover as your blood vessels shrink, but there are risks involved, such as conjunctival hemorrhage, eye pain, eye pressure, inflammation, and increased risk of stroke.
Laser and light therapy treatments are available for wet AMD that may provide better results if you do not respond to the injections. One option is a light-activated drug, which is injected into your arm and travels to your eye to close abnormal blood vessels and stop leakage. This treatment may improve your vision and may require multiple treatments as blood vessels continue to grow. Laser therapy is another option that seals the blood vessels, but there is risk of scarring and it may create a blind spot in your vision. This therapy may also require multiple treatments.
If you have been recently diagnosed with macular degeneration, or you have noticed changes in your vision, it is important to see an experienced eye doctor. Contact us to schedule an exam and discuss your treatment options.
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