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Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Age-related Macular Degeneration is the deterioration of the macula, a small area in the retina which is responsible for sharp, central vision and color vision.

What Are the Symptoms of Macular Degeneration?

Macular Degeneration can cause different symptoms in different people; in fact the condition may be hardly noticeable in its early stages.

Common symptoms include:
  • Distorted or blurred vision when reading
  • Colors appearing less bright
  • A dark or "empty" area appears in the center of vision
  • Straight lines appear distorted or wavy

What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular Degeneration is the deterioration the macula lutea, a small area on the central part of the retina in the back of the eye. The macula allows you to see the fine details in sharp focus and visualize colors. Vision generated from the macula is essential for performing the activities of your daily life, such as driving and reading. Macular Degeneration affects your central vision and can affect your ability to see both near and far. Macular Degeneration usually does not affect one's peripheral vision. For example, a person with macular degeneration may be able to see the outline of a clock but are unable to read the time.

What Are the Types of Macular Degeneration?

  • "Dry" Macular Degeneration (Atrophic): The "dry" form is caused by the thinning and aging of tissues in the macula. This is the most common form of macular degeneration and accounts for about 90% of all AMD cases.
  • "Wet" Macular Degeneration (Exudative): The "wet" form is a result of abnormal blood vessels forming underneath the retina. These blood vessels leak fluid or blood and cause blurred central vision. Vision loss due to "wet" macular degeneration may be rapid and severe.

How Is Macular Degeneration Treated?

  • Vitamin supplements: Vitamin supplements have been shown to reduce the risk of developing AMD and slow the progression of AMD in those that already have the disease. A large scientific study found that some people lowered their risk by nearly 25% by taking high doses of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and zinc. The study also found that, although the vitamin supplements did not cure AMD and did not restore lost vision, they did help to maintain the vision that the AMD patients did have. Lutein and Omega 3 oils have demonstrated some value in stabilizing AMD.
  • Laser Surgery: A brief outpatient laser procedure can be performed for certain "wet" macular degeneration cases. A focused laser beam is applied to the areas of abnormal blood vessel growth to slow or stop the leaking of fluid and blood.
  • PDT (photodynamic therapy): PDT uses a combination of special drugs and laser treatments to slow or stop leaking from abnormal blood vessels.
  • LUCENTIS(tm) Treatments: A Lucentis (ranibizumab) injection is a form of treatment containing a prescription medication shown to benefit patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Lucentis is designed to block abnormal blood vessel growth and fluid leakage. By targeting and blocking specific proteins that are known to be growth factors in new blood vessels, Lucentis can prevent further damage to vision and possibly even reverse the effects of earlier damage. In clinical trials, Lucentis has been shown to produce a significant improvement of at least 3 lines (15 letters) on the eye chart in 40% of AMD patients. Additionally, 70% of Lucentis patients improved by at least one letter on the eye chart and 95% of Lucentis patients maintained the vision they had at the start of treatment.
  • Avastin Treatment: Avastin is used similarly to Lucentis for the treatment of AMD and macular edema (swelling). Ophthalmologist use Avastin "off-label" because research has indicated that it works as a VEGF inhibitor (it blocks specific proteins) that are known to cause abnormal blood vessel growth in the eye. Avastin has been shown to reduce fluid retention in the retina and help improve or maintain vision. Like Lucentis, Avastin is administered by injection into the eye as needed at regular intervals (usually every four weeks). Your doctor will determine the frequency and length of your treatment through examinations of the retina. Injection treatments, like other medical interventions, can have complications. Your doctor will discuss the benefits and risks associated with these treatments to determine if they are right for you.
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