Macular Degeneration, also known as Age-Related Macular Degeneration or AMD, is a leading cause of blindness in the world, and is the number one cause of legal blindness in the older population in the United States.
What is Macular Degeneration?
AMD is a degeneration of the cells of the retina in the eye. Since the retina is the ‘film in the camera’ of the eye, any damage here can be catastrophic. The specific area of the retina which is affected, the macula, is the very center of vision. The cells that normally process waste from retinal cells appear not to function properly, cell waste builds up, causing damage to the other cells.
What are the common symptoms of Macular Degeneration?
Early macular degeneration can only be dectected during an eye examination. Later in the disease, there may be blank spots in the vision, or distortion, where straight lines appear to have waves, curves, or broken or missing areas. End-stage disease can result in complete loss of the central vision. The peripheral vision is not affected by macular degeration.
What are the common causes of Macular Degeneration?
The cause of AMD is unknown. There are family links to the disease, but it is not strictly inherited. In other words, if AMD is in the family, all members of the family are at risk, but not everyone will actually get the disease.
Treatment of Macular Degeneration
There is no know treatment to cure AMD, but in the past few years some forms of treatment to prevent progression have been found. Injection of medications known as anti-VEGF’s can help improve vision in patients who have ‘wet’ macular degeneration. The AREDS study, a huge study done in the United States indicated that use of Vitamins A,C, and E, along with Zinc and Copper slow down AMD. Leutin and Xanthine are being studied as well, but have not been found to have a proven benefit. Shielding the eyes from ultraviolet light using sunglasses and hats have also been shown to decrease macular degeneration.