- Jonathan Joffe
February - Raise Age-related Macular Degeneration Awareness!
Age-Related Macular degeneration, also known as AMD or ARMD is a common eye condition and one of the leading causes of loss of vision among people age 50 and older in the developed world.
The small spot on the back of your eye (Retina) is called the macula and is made of millions of light sensing cells that provide you with sharp central vision. AMD causes damage to this area and can lead to a blurred spot in your central vision which can interfere in simple tasks like face identification, driving, reading and writing and leads to a much lower quality of life.
AMD usually produces a slow painless loss of visionand in very few cases will the vision loss be sudden. Early signs of Macular Degeneration will include shadows in your central vision or unusual fuzziness or distorted vision.
Two types of Macular degeneration exist. It can be classified as either Wet or Drymacular degeneration.
Dry Macular Degeneration is an early stage of the disease and results from ageing, thinning of the macular tissue, depositing of pigment in the macula or a combination of these. Gradual central vision loss can occur with dry macular degeneration but is not nearly as severe as the wet version.
Currently, no treatments are available to treat dry macular degeneration although a few are currently in clinical trials. Nutritional supplements containing antioxidant vitamins and multi vitamins that contain lutein and zeaxanthin can reduce the risk of developing dry AMD as well as slow down the progression of the disease.
Please be advised that there are a lot of these supplements on the market but not all of them have the right concentration of the ingredients.
In about 10% of cases dry AMD progresses to Wet AMD which is the more advanced and damaging form of the disease. With wet macular degeneration, new blood vessels grow beneath the retina and leak blood and fluid which causes permanent damage to light-sensitive cells in the retina, the cells then die off and create blind spots in one’s central vision
The most common treatment for wet macular degeneration is anti-VEGF therapy, which is an injection into the eye. VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor) is a molecule that supports the growth of new but weaker blood vessels.
The purpose of the Anti-VEGF injection is to inhibit the formation of new blood vessels behind the retina to slow down the progression of the disease.
Various tests are performed to detect AMD of which the Amsler Gridtest is the most common one and can be done by the patient. The Amsler Grid is a chart that detects any defects in your central vision. Another test that may be performed is ophthalmoscopy or fundus photography as well as OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography).These tests will help your eye care professional to detect any abnormalities on the retina. If further investigation is needed you will be referred to a hospital for further testing and analysis.
Here are some risk factors for AMD:
Age: is a major risk factor for developing AMD and it is most likely to occur after the age of 60 but can occur earlier.
Smoking: Research has shown that smoking doubles the risk of developing Macular degeneration.
Race and Gender: AMD is more common among Caucasians than African-Americans or Hispanics. It occurs more in females than males
Family history and genetics: If there is a family history of macular degeneration you are higher risk. Research has identified 20 genes that can affect the risk of developing Macular degeneration.
Lifestyle: With increased usage of electronic gadgets and exposure to fluorescent & LEDs, your exposure to blue light (which is part of visible light) has gone up multi-fold. The fact that blue light penetrates all the way to the retina (the inner lining of the back of the eye) is important, because studies have shown that too much exposure to blue light over a period of time can damage light-sensitive cells in the retina. Macula is the area in the Retina where maximum vision of the person is achieved. This causes changes that resemble those ofmacular degeneration, which can lead to permanent vision loss.
Many eye care providers are concerned that the added blue light exposure from computer screens, smartphones and other digital devices might increase a person's risk of macular degeneration later in life. The situation gets worsened further as even infants & children are increasingly being exposed to these digital devices like mobile phones, tablets etc. on a regular basis. Gone are the days of proper toys…and time for the kids…
It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of developing AMD.
If you are experiencing any vision loss due to Macular degeneration or are not sure what the cause of the vision loss may be, then it is important to have a very good support team which should at least include an optometrist and ophthalmologist. Consult your eye care professional on a regular basis to detect any early changes to your vision and eye health.