Macular degeneration (often called age-related macular degeneration or AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in Australia. According to Macular Disease Foundation Australia, 50 percent of all cases of blindness are because of macular degeneration. The degenerative eye disease is characterized by the loss of cells in the macula, or the area of the retina responsible for central and detail vision. As the macula deteriorates, the eye loses its ability to recognize faces or colors or see fine detail.
There are two types of macular degeneration: wet and dry. In this post, Dr Joshua Hann discusses the differences between wet and dry macular degeneration.
Dry macular degeneration is far more common than wet macular degeneration. In the dry form of AMD, the layers of the macula begin to atrophy and lose function. Tiny yellowish deposits of cellular waste products, called drusen, appear on the retina.
With the passage of time, 10 to 15 percent of people with dry macular degeneration will develop wet AMD. With this form of the disease, new blood vessels grow beneath the retina. These blood vessels are abnormally fragile and can leak blood and fluid. The leakage may result in swelling in the retina and the further loss of retinal cell function.
Dry macular degeneration often does not cause any noticeable symptoms or changes to vision. Some patients experience slightly limited central vision that makes it more challenging to read or drive, or they discover their vision is worse at night. Straight lines may also appear wavy or distorted in this stage of the disease.
If the disease worsens into wet macular degeneration and new blood vessels start to develop, central vision can become further distorted or destroyed. Dark spots can appear in the center of the vision field. Peripheral or side vision is usually not affected.
The recommended treatment for macular degeneration depends on the type and stage of the disease.
In dry macular degeneration, nutritional intervention can be very useful. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) showed that consuming a specific combination of vitamins and antioxidants may slow or stop the disease from progressing to the wet form. Since the average person does not get enough of these vitamins and antioxidants in their daily diet, nutritional supplements with the AREDS or AREDS2 formula are highly recommended.
In wet macular degeneration, treatment often involves sealing off the abnormal leaking blood vessels with laser therapy and/or curbing their growth with intravitreal injections.
Early Detection and Treatment Can Prevent or Delay Vision Loss
With both types of macular degeneration, early detection and treatment intervention is key to prevent or stave off vision loss. The best way to catch the disease early is through regular eye exams.
If you have already been diagnosed with macular degeneration, you need a doctor like Dr Hann to coordinate your care. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with Dr Hann.