Much like the rest of the body, the eyes cannot fight the effects of aging, and even people in ideal health are not immune to the risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). The condition, which remains the leading cause of sight loss and blindness among older Americans, is treatable, but a cure remains elusive and time is of the essence for those who begin to experience symptoms.
“Like many sight-threatening conditions, early detection and preventative measures are key,” explains Dr. Vivienne Velasco of iFocus Vision Center. “With Age-Related Macular Degeneration, however, the effects and the treatment will vary, depending on which form of the disease you have, ‘Wet’ or ‘Dry.’”
What Is Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
As many as 90 percent of those who suffer from Age-Related Macular Degeneration are diagnosed with the “Dry” or “Atrophic” variety. Despite sharing the word, “Dry” AMD is not related to Dry Eye; it instead earned its name because, unlike the “Wet” version, there is no fluid leakage around the eye.
Instead, vision becomes compromised when layers of the macula begin to atrophy and small deposits of a protein called Drusen begin to build up under the retina.
Symptoms of Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Because vision loss is gradual, a person suffering from “Dry” AMD should keep a record of symptoms and share them with an optometrist during an annual eye exam. Symptoms include:
- Blurriness in central vision, even though peripheral vision remains clear
- A need for brighter light when reading
- Difficulty reading due to blurry vision
- Seeing straight lines as bent
How Is DryAge-Related Macular Degeneration Treated?
There is no treatment for “Dry” AMD, which is why Dr. Velasco and others in her field focus on preventative measures to ensure you do not lose sight as you get older.
“The signs of Age-Related Macular Degeneration can be detected during a comprehensive eye exam,” she explains. “A proper diagnosis requires an understanding of several factors, including a patient’s family history and health habits.
“Maintaining a healthy weight and diet are essential to preserving your vision as you get older, and smoking is a big factor. Your risk of developing AMD is greater if you’re a smoker.”
Additionally, vitamins such as Zinc, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E can help slow the progression of AMD.
What Is Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
The “Wet” or “Exudative” variety of Age-Related Macular Degeneration is far less common, but also far more concerning because it occurs rapidly rather than gradually. In these cases, early detection is essential to prevent further vision loss.
“Wet” AMD is caused by the formation of abnormal blood vessels that can burst and leak fluid under the retina and into layers of the macula. This creates scar tissue, further affecting the retinal cells. It is possible for a person suffering from “Dry” AMD to see their condition worsening into the “Wet” variety.
Symptoms of Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration
The symptoms of “Wet” AMD – reduced central vision, difficulty reading in low light – are similar to the “Dry” type, but they happen much faster. A person who begins to notice an immediate loss in central vision should contact their eye doctor, especially if they have a family history of AMD and meet the age threshold – the disease primarily affects those 65 and older.
How Is Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treated?
While there is no cure, treatments can stabilize a person’s weakened vision. Treatments for “Wet” AMD include:
Eye Injections. Aflibercept (Eylea) and Ranibizumab (Lucentis) are two medications that act as Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor inhibitors, preventing the formation of new blood vessels that cause bleeding in “Wet” AMD.
Photodynamic Therapy. This process involves injecting the drug Verteporfin into the arm, which travels to the eye and highlights the leaking vessels. Then the doctor targets the abnormal blood vessels with a laser to stop them from leaking.
Laser Photocoagulation. In the early stages, laser photocoagulation can be used to destroy abnormal blood vessels before they begin to leak.
“Treating ‘Wet’ AMD often depends on how far the disease has progressed,” Dr. Velasco explains. “This is why an annual eye exam is so important.”
Have questions about your vision? Call Dr. Velasco at 702-473-5660 or book an appointment online at the iFocus Vision Center website.