Our bodies change in all sorts of ways as we get older. You swear you could have jumped higher yesterday or run a marathon a month ago, but today you know one bad twist of your neck and you’re out for the season. It’s a normal part of life, but it’s an annoying part of life and one that requires constant upkeep.
Your eyes are no different. As we age, our eyes change over time and we often find ourselves reaching out for our bifocals just to see the day through. February calls special attention to one such change: age-related macular degeneration. As this is the case, we want to share our wealth of knowledge with you on AMD.
As the name suggests, your macula degenerates as you age. The macula is the central area of the back wall of the retina and is responsible for color vision, focusing on fine detail as well as your straight-ahead vision. When the macula is damaged, your central vision gets fuzzy and lost over time. Less obvious symptoms are the changes to color perception or hues. There are two major types of AMD to look out for – dry and wet.
Dry AMD is much more common than wet AMD. Dry AMD occurs when the macula gets thinner with age and tiny clumps of a protein called drusen grow. Over time, you slowly lose your central vision with dry AMD. Wet AMD is less common, but more severe than dry AMD. When new, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina, they can leak blood or other fluids into the retina, scarring the macula. With wet AMD, you lose your central vision at a faster rate than dry AMD. In essence, you may consider the wet stage as what follows the last stage of Dry.
While AMD occurs most often in people over 50, it can be spurred on and accelerated by habits such as:
- Cigarette smoking
- High blood pressure
- Diet high in saturated fats
- Family history of AMD
You can’t really control your family history, but like your general practitioner will suggest, managing your diet and quitting cigarettes can help prevent a myriad of life-threatening diseases and postpone advancement of AMD.
Presently, there’s no way to treat dry AMD. However, studies suggest a combination of certain vitamins and supplements may slow down the progression of dry AMD. These vitamins and supplements might also sound familiar to you because they can be beneficial for your eye health all around. These include:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
Wet AMD can be treated with the help of anti-VEGF medications. This type of treatment reduces the number of abnormal blood vessels in the retina and slows any blood leaks. In some instances, laser surgery can also be used to treat certain types of wet AMD. These lasers are aimed at the abnormal blood vessels, reducing them in number and slowing their leaking. Of course, if we identify AMD during your examination, we’ll talk to you about all the options you are eligible for.
You’ve heard us talk about how important a comprehensive eye exam can be for your eye health and we’re not stopping! AMD is among the 240 different eye diseases we look for during your eye visit. When you come in and sit in front of our OCT, we’re taking a close look at your retina for any anomalies. Among these anomalies, we look for damage to the macula that could lead to AMD. Even if you haven’t expressed any symptoms, we look for early warning signs and find the best treatment options available for you before your appointment is over.