Age-related macular degeneration is a disease that affects many individuals over age 65. In fact, it is the leading cause of blindness or vision loss for Americans in that age group. The condition occurs gradually as part of the natural aging process. If it is left undiagnosed, age-related macular degeneration can impair vision. There is no known cure for macular degeneration; however, the knowledgeable surgeons at The Eye Clinic of North Dakota provide a variety of treatments aimed to slow its progression and maintain vision for patients suffering from the disease.
Age-related macular degeneration is a disease that affects an individual's central vision. The condition is characterized by a breakdown of the macula, or the center of the retina, which causes central vision to deteriorate. Because of this, straight lines may appear crooked, or dark or blind areas may show up in the central field of vision, making it very difficult to see an entire image. If it is left untreated, it can result in complete vision loss. Macular degeneration typically occurs as part of the natural aging process. However, those who smoke, are obese, or have a family history of macular degeneration are at a higher risk for the disease.
Macular degeneration can be diagnosed using the Amsler Grid test. The Amsler Grid looks like a normal, straight-line grid to individuals without macular degeneration. However, for those who suffer from the disease, the lines may appear distorted and curved, as seen below.
There are two forms of macular degeneration: wet (neovascular) and dry (non-neovascular). Both forms have similar causes and symptoms; however, dry macular degeneration is more common as it appears in 90 percent of all cases. Dry macular degeneration is an early and less severe stage of the condition. No one knows for sure what causes it, but it is believed that it occurs when the macular tissue begins to thin due to age and the waste from the macula cells become deposited below the retina, which blocks nutrients from reaching those cells and leads to further deterioration.
Wet macular degeneration is a less common, more advanced form of the disease. Wet macular degeneration appears in 10 percent of all cases and develops over a shorter period of time. The condition is characterized by the formation of new, abnormal blood vessels in the eye as the body responds to the deterioration. These vessels leak blood and other fluid underneath the macula. This in turn causes permanent damage to the light-sensitive macula cells, leading to severe vision loss.
While there is no cure for age-related macular degeneration, the progression of the disease can be slowed with surgical treatments, lifestyle changes, and medications. If wet macular degeneration is detected early, laser eye surgery or photodynamic therapy can be used to stop the formation of abnormal blood vessels. However, these procedures are not effective at reversing any damage that has already occurred. Using modalities such as magnifying devices, closed circuit TV, and large print materials can help patients with both dry and wet macular degeneration see better. Patients with dry macular degeneration are also advised to take antioxidants or other nutritional supplements, which are believed to slow progression of the disease.
At The Eye Clinic of North Dakota, our ophthalmologists are committed to helping patients see more clearly. If you are interested in learning more about the treatment options for macular degeneration, please contact us today. We offer a variety of financing options to help you get the treatment you need.