Leading the way in Macular Degeneration treatment
AMD is a common eye condition and a leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older. It causes damage to the macula, the center part of the retina – the delicate nerve lining on the inside of the eye. The macula is the part of the eye needed for sharp and detailed vision, which lets us see objects that are straight ahead.
What Are The Symptoms?
- Decreased rate of dark adaptation is the first symptom of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). This is the process of adapting from a bright environment to a dimmer one
- AMD typically advances slowly and patient symptoms may not occur in the early stages
- As AMD progresses, a blurred area near the center of vision is a common symptom
- Over time, the blurred area may grow larger or you may develop blank spots in your central vision
- Objects may not appear to be as bright as they used to be
- Objects may become distorted. Using an Amsler Grid to monitor daily is helpful.
- AMD does not typically lead to complete blindness, with no ability to see. However, the loss of central vision in AMD can greatly interfere with simple everyday activities, such as the ability to see faces, drive, read, write, or do close work such as cooking or fixing things around the house
What Are The Risk Factors?
- Age ~ Age is the number one risk factor for AMD. The disease is most likely to occur after age 60, but it can occur earlier
- Smoking ~ Research shows that smoking doubles the risk of AMD
- Race ~ AMD is more common among Caucasians
- Family History ~ AMD is a genetic disease so those with a family history are more likely to develop AMD, the amount of risk depends on which genes are ultimately inherited
How Can We Help?
The early and intermediate stages of AMD usually start without symptoms. Only a comprehensive eye examination can detect early AMD. Our best recommendation is to have yearly dilated eye examinations, or more frequent depending on your personal ocular health history and risk factors. The comprehensive examination includes visual acuity test, dilated eye examination, visual field screening, color vision testing.
If macular changes are seen by one of our eye doctors further testing would provide more detailed information about the severity and likelihood of progression of AMD. This includes a retina scan (optical coherence tomography) and/or retinal photography to assess the structure of the macula as well as dark adaptation testing and/or electroretinogram testing to measure the function of the macula. We also offer genetic testing to determine your individual genetic risk for advancing to the severe forms of AMD. This complete picture allows accurate evaluation of your specific risk of progression to more severe forms of AMD and ultimately determines your eye doctor’s treatment and follow-up recommendations.
During the dilated examination, your eye doctor will look for drusen which are yellow waste deposits beneath the retina. Most people develop some very small drusen as a normal part of aging, but some are indicative of the earliest clinical sign of AMD. Dark adaptation testing with the AdaptDx instrument can differentiate these types of drusen as pathologic drusen cause a delayed dark adaptation while normal, age-related, drusen do not.
If you are found to have the early stages of AMD your eye doctor will advise specific lifestyle changes that have been found to decrease the progression rate of AMD. If you are a candidate, we will also recommend beginning a specific eye vitamin formulation determined by the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS1 and AREDS2). These very large studies found that daily intake of certain high-dose vitamins and minerals can slow the progression of the disease in people who have AMD.
In the advanced stages of AMD there are other treatments that are necessary. Your eye doctor will discuss the options and recommend treatment based on your individual needs.
Once you are diagnosed with any stage of AMD, your eye doctor will monitor you at an interval based on how high your risk is to progress to severe stages of AMD. This may be every 3-6 months depending on your individual risk factors and clinical presentation.
The purpose of close monitoring with a dilated eye examination is to diagnose the earliest possible sign of severe, wet, AMD so that prompt treatment can be given to halt progression. Once wet AMD deteriorates the macula, that vision cannot be regained. Earliest intervention is most important to maintain good vision throughout your lifetime.
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