Nothing creates a greater fear of blindness among our patients than the diagnosis of “macular degeneration.” But what is macular degeneration? The macula is a small area at the back of the eye that allows us to see fine detail. If the macula doesn’t work properly, your central vision can become blurry or you can develop blind spots called scotoma.
Macular degeneration is almost always the result of the natural aging process, and it is important to remember that the peripheral (side) vision is not affected. So although patients can become legally blind, they generally maintain their ability to function independently. Macular degeneration is the most common cause of severe vision loss in people over age 50.
Difficult To Detect
Macular degeneration can have a very insidious onset, making it hard to diagnose in its early stages. Some people barely notice the initial signs of macular degeneration. Others observe that words on a page look blurred, straight lines look wavy, or a dark or empty area appears in the center of vision. Any of these symptoms indicate the need to be evaluated promptly by an eye care professional.
There are generally 2 types of macular degeneration:
Dry Macular Degeneration
Dry age-related macular degeneration is the most common form of the disease. It is the result of a progressive thinning and loss of function of the macular tissue. Vision loss is generally gradual and may initially go unnoticed by the patient. Historically, dry macular degeneration was thought to be untreatable. Now, with a better understanding of cellular physiology, there are a variety of investigational studies aimed at treating or even curing this form of the disease. This is a very exciting area of research and one that is advancing rapidly.
Wet Macular Degeneration
Wet age-related macular degeneration is less common but generally thought of as the most severe form of the disease. It occurs when abnormal blood vessels inundate the retina, leaking fluid or blood. The onset of wet macular degeneration frequently involves distortion of objects or bending of straight lines (called metamorphopsia). Vision loss may be rapid and severe. Great advances have been made in recent years in the treatment of wet macular degeneration. We now have a variety of medications such as Lucentis, Avastin and Eylea that can slow or in some cases stop the progression of wet macular degeneration. In addition, there are a number of new medications and other therapies undergoing investigational studies.
Your eye doctor can detect early signs of macular degeneration during an eye exam. Our ability to detect early age-related macular degeneration has improved tremendously with the introduction of sophisticated imaging technologies such as spectral domain optical coherence tomography (OCT).This technology allows us to painlessly study the retina and recommend treatment options sooner to help preserve remaining vision. In early stages, treatment of dry age-related macular degeneration may include nutritional supplements. For the wet form, treatment usually involves the anti-vascular endothelial growth factor medications mentioned above, laser treatment or both.
Our Mission is to utilize the most advanced technology available to help us diagnose and treat your macular degeneration. Based on sophisticated imaging of the retina utilizing spectral domain optical coherence tomography, we will create a customized treatment plan to combat your macular degeneration. When indicated, we will treat you with the most advanced medications available. Should you be a candidate for an investigational treatment, rest assured that we work closely with the region’s best tertiary care specialists and will assist you in coordinating entry into an appropriate study.
What You Need to Know
The diagnosis and treatment of macular degeneration has evolved tremendously over the past decade. What was once a condition that we could only diagnosis and observe has become something that we can actively treat. Since early detection is critical, we recommend annual eye examinations for anyone over 60 years of age or with a family history of macular degeneration. We are very excited about recent advances in the treatment of macular degeneration and look forward to sharing their benefits with you! Our patient coordinators will be happy to answer any questions and assist you in arranging an appointment.