MACULAR DEGENERATION

MACULAR DEGENERATION (AMD)

What is macular degeneration?
 Macular degeneration (also known as AMD) occurs when a part of your retina, called the macula, is damaged or deteriorates. Since the retina controls your central field of vision, macular degeneration can cause blurriness or blank spots in your vision when you look at something straight on. Your perifrial vision is not affected. It is most common in people over 50. There are two main types of macular degeneration, dry (atrophic) degeneration, and wet (neovascular) degeneration. 
Dry AMD is the most common form of the condition. Dry AMD occurs when pigment cells in the retina begin to die, causing  blurry central vision and  distorted color
perception that gradually worsens over time. Wet AMD can lead to irreversible vision loss. Wet AMD occurs when a retinal membrane breaks. The body compensates by growing new extra blood vessels which grow into the membrane. The blood vessels are delicate and often break and leak, which leads to scarring of the macula. If not treated quickly, wet AMD can permanently destroy central vision.  
What are the symptoms of AMD? 

Wet and dry AMD have similar symptoms, but with wet AMD, symptoms will appear and worsen rapidly. 

The symptoms of AMD are:
• Hazy or blurred vision
• Spots in central vision
• Text and lines appear distorted
• Colors appearing dull or muted
• Hard time recognizing faces
• Blind spots in central vision
• Rapid worsening of vision (Wet AMD)

Consult your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms. Your doctor will perform a series of screenings to determine if you have macular degeneration. 

How is AMD treated?

Unfortunately, AMD cannot be cured entirely, but, treatment can slow its progression. 
Dry AMD has no known cure, but certain vitamin supplements like zinc and vitamin C, along with proper diet and exercise, can slow it down. 
For wet AMD there are more options for treatment. The two most common are injections and laser therapy. One treatment option is injection of an anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) drug. VEGF medication stops your body from producing the extra blood vessels that grow into your retinal membrane. This stops the blood vessels from doing any further damage, but can’t reverse damage already done. Injections may need to be repeated every few months. 

There are two types of wet AMD laser therapy: photodynamic therapy and laser surgery. In photodynamic therapy, a drug called verteporfin is injected into the body. The drug travels through your bloodstream and into your eye. Then, the doctor will activate the drug by shining a laser into your eye. This exposure stops the extra blood vessels from growing further slowing vision loss. In a laser surgery AMD treatment, the doctor uses a laser to destroy the extra blood vessels in the membrane. 

Again, wet AMD cannot be cured but, its effects can be delayed by consistent treatment. Each type of AMD treatment has its own set of risks and side effects. Talk to your doctor about what AMD treatment may be right for you. 
Who is at risk? 

You may be at risk for AMD if you: 
• Are over 65
• Have a family history of AMD
• Are of caucasian descent
• Smoke, or are exposed to second-hand smoke on a regular basis
• Are obese
• Have had heart disease 
• Have high blood pressure

If you are at risk for AMD, it is important to have regular eye exams so your doctor can screen for the disease, and treat it early. Your risk for AMD can be reduced by proper diet and exercise, and avoidance of smoking. 

How can I cope with AMD? 

 Coping with AMD can be very difficult, especially if your vision deteriorates quickly. It can affect work and leisure activities, and you may have to adapt your lifestyle accordingly as it progresses. It is important to maintain a support network of family and friends. Your doctor may also be able to refer you to a counselor or AMD support group in your area. 

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