Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a deterioration of the central portion of the retina, the inside layer of the eye that records the images we see and sends them to the brain. The macula is the center of the retina and is responsible for the majority of our vision. If this region gets damaged, our ability to see clearly or do our daily activities is severely impaired.

What causes macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration is an aging process of the retinal cell. In certain patients, these retinal cells start to die off and clump together at an accelerated pace. The exact reason is not known, however some groups of individuals are more at risk.

Who Is at Risk for AMD?

You are more likely to develop AMD if you:

  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Eat a diet high in saturated fat or are overweight
  • Are over 50 years old
  • Have hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Have a family history of AMD
  • Lighter skin or iris color

Are there different types of macular degeneration?

Two forms of macular degeneration exist: dry AMD and wet (neovascular) AMD. Macular degeneration starts off dry, in which clumps of retinal waste products and cells deposit in the macula. These deposits, which are known as drusen, are seen as yellow colored dots when an eye doctor looks at your macula. As dry macular degeneration progressively gets worse, these small drusen enlarge and multiply.

The wet form of macular degeneration accounts for about 10 percent of all AMD cases. It results when abnormal blood vessels form underneath the retina at the back of the eye. These new blood vessels leak fluid or blood into the macula, causing significant and rapid vision loss.

What are the symptoms?

Early forms of dry macular degeneration cause no symptoms and are only noticed on routine exams. As drusen enlarge, patient notice a waviness in their vision. In later stages of dry macular degeneration, people often have blurred vision or blind spots in their center vision.

For AMD that progresses to the wet form, patients will notice a sharp decrease in their vision. Often times people will not notice an issue in the affected eye because the brain will automatically use the other eye to fill in the gaps. Frequently patients will notice a significant amount of blurriness only when they cover their other eye.

How do you treat macular degeneration?

Dry macular degeneration is treated with specific eye vitamins that have been shown to decrease the progression to severe dry AMD. Patients are encouraged to use an Amsler grid and test each eye for any waviness or missing vision. Here at the High Desert Institute of Ophthalmology, we will closely follow your macular degeneration with an OCT scan of the macula that shows the individual layers of the retina and will allow us to analyze the exact size of the drusen.

For wet macular degeneration, the start treatment includes anti-VEGF medication injections into the eye. These injections help eliminate the blood that has formed in the eye and prevents scarring in the macula. This ground breaking medication has allowed millions of people with AMD retain their vision.

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