WHAT IS MACULAR DEGENERATION (MD)? Age-related macular degeneration MD is a degenerative condition that effects the central retina, resulting in a progressive loss of central vision. MD may effect up to 1 in 7 people over the age of 50, and is the most common cause of non-reversible vision loss in this group of people. MD is broadly catergorized into two groups, a dry form and a wet form. The dry form is often slower in progression and can effect both eyes. It results from central retinal cells slowly losing function and breaking down. The wet form can be more aggressive in nature and cause more rapid vision loss. It results from an invasion of abnormal blood vessels underneath the retinal surface leaking and releasing fluid. This fluid loss can occur rapidly and central vision is often distorted.
HOW IS MACULAR DEGERATION DETECTED? MD is often first detected by an eye care professional during routine examination. An eye examination that screens for MD will typically include checking vision, assessment of the integrity of the macula using a grid pattern known as an amsler grid, and directly viewing the macula with a slitlamp and lens. Digital photography can be useful for recording visible macular abnormalities, particularly with dry MD. When fluid may be present below the retinal surface, as in wet MD, this is best viewed using optical coherence tomography and fluorescein angiography.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT OF MACULAR DEGENERATION? Depending on whether you have dry MD or wet MD, different apporaches are taken.
Dry MD: Currently, although no medical treatment is available for dry MD, lifestyle changes may help prevent MD. These include eating a well balanced diet (eating fish twice a week and leafy green vegetables daily), exercising regularly and ceasing smoking. For moderate disease, taking supplements daily such as Macuvision Plus, Macutec and MDeyes can help prevent worsening of dry MD.
Wet MD: There are specific medical treatments available for wet MD. Although these treatments do not cure MD, they do significantly reduce the progression of the disease and may actually restore some vision in some individuals. Wet MD treatment is based on reducing the growth and leakage of blood vessels beneath the retinal surface. These blood vessels are targeted by introducing the medical drug (anti-VEGF) into the eye by injection. The frequency and intervals of treatment are determined by the treating doctor and can be ongoing to prevetn worsening of vision.
WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS FOR MACULAR DEGENERATION? Every person has some degree of risk developing MD, however some factors can increase your chances of developing this disease.
HOW CAN I REDUCE MY RISK FOR MACULAR DEGENERATION? Although you can not alter your age and family history, certain lifestyle changes can reduce your risks and slow down the progression of MD.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I BE CHECKED FOR MACULAR DEGENERATION? It is recommended an eye test be performed at least annually for those over the age of 50 with a family history of MD, or those with early signs of MD, otherwise every 2 years in all other individuals. It is vitally important if you do notice any sudden changes in vision, such as blurred vision and distorted or wavy text and lines, that you consult with an eye care professional immediately. This is particularly the case with wet MD, as treatment is very effective if performed as soon as the changes in vision are noticed.