By Oregon Retina Center
January 29, 2015
To better understand macular degeneration, it helps to know a little eye anatomy. The retina is a structure located in the back of the eye, behind the lens. This structure contains millions of cells called rods and cones, which are sensitive to light. When an image from the lens is projected onto the retina, the rods and cones are activate to distinguish different light intensities and colors.
The macula is the center of the retina and contains cones, which allow us to see small details and color. If your eye doctor has diagnosed you with macular degeneration, this means that those cells in the macula are damaged and are no longer working properly.
Who can get macular degeneration?
While this condition can affect anyone, it is most often found in those over the age of 55 with strong family history. This is known as Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).
What are the symptoms of macular degeneration?
If you have AMD then you will begin to lose your central vision gradually over time. It is very rare to lose vision suddenly. You may first notice shadowy areas in your field of vision or you may experience distorted vision.
What are the different types of age-related macular degeneration?
There are two types of AMD: dry and wet.
Dry, or atrophic macular degeneration occurs when the cells in the macula begin to breakdown over time, resulting in blurry of vision. Most people are diagnosed with this form of macular degeneration.
Wet, or exudative macular degeneration occurs when new blood vessels grow under the retina and begin to leak or bleed. These unstable blood vessels will lead to macular scarring and result in severe loss in vision.
How is macular degeneration diagnosed?
A visit to a retina specialist can properly diagnose macular degeneration. This is an ophthalmologist with two addition years of fellowship or specialized training in the management of retinal diseases. If you chose to have your eye/retina care performed at our office, you can be sure that you are being evaluated and treated with state-of-the-art technology. We will look for signs of dry AMD, including deposits on the macula known as drusen, and any signs of wet AMD as seen by the presence of abnormal blood vessels and leakage. If we find any signs that we believe to be symptoms of macular degeneration, we will take pictures of the retina for further evaluation.
How is macular degeneration treated?
Wet and dry macular degeneration (AMD) cannot be cured, but treatments can help slow the progress, reduce vision loss, and even cause remission of the disease in some patients.
Three common medications used to treat wet macular degeneration include Avastin, Lucentis and Eylea. These anti-VEGF medications are directly injected into the eye and inhibit a factor that makes unwanted blood vessels grow in the retina. Avastin, a cancer medication that has not yet been FDA approved to treat wet maculardegeneration was the first anti-VEGF medication used to treat AMD. Lucentis received FDA approval in 2006 and clinically works very similarly to Avastin. Eylea was approved by the FDA in 2011.
According to the National Eye Institute, taking a high-dose formulation of antioxidant vitamins and zinc may help lower the risk of vision loss for those with dry macular degeneration.
The best way to prevent vision loss from AMD is early detection and intervention. For a complete retina evaluation, feel free to make an appointment with Dr. Yujen Wang at any of our three Oregon Retina Center locations in Medford, Grant Pass or Roseburg.