Macular Degeneration (AMD) Treatment in Baltimore
Also serving Pikesville, Glen Burnie, & Rosedale
Macular degeneration is a common eye health condition that can hinder your ability to complete everyday functions like reading road signs, recognizing faces, using a computer, watching television and driving. Age-related macular degeneration –also referred to as AMD– is characterized by the gradual deterioration of the macula or the small central area of the retina. The retina of your eye is the area that controls visual acuity and is central to clear vision.
Wet and Dry Macular Degeneration
Recent studies have shown that AMD is the leading cause of vision loss among Americans as they age. Research also suggests that as the US population ages, the number of people living with AMD will increase greatly in the next several years.
Our Maryland optometrist can work to diagnose both dry (non-neovascular) and wet (neovascular) macular degeneration. The dry form of AMD is much more common and is regarded as the earlier stage of the disease. Dry AMD may present as a result of aging and the natural thinning of the macular tissues or due to tissues depositing in the macula. Gradual central vision loss is a possible symptom of dry macular degeneration but the effects are typically much less severe than they tend to be with wet macular degeneration.
Wet macular degeneration only presents in about 10 percent of cases. This more advanced form of AMD occurs when new blood vessels begin to grow under the retina, leaking blood and fluids. As the fluids leak into the rest of the eye, they can cause permanent damage and create blind spots in the central field of vision.
Signs and Symptoms of AMD
AMD is usually characterized by a slow and painless loss of vision. However, in some cases, AMD vision loss can be very sudden. Straight lines may appear wavy and there may be a black or dark space in the central field of vision.
While the disease is associated with the natural aging process, there may also be a genetic component that makes certain patients more likely to experience this type of vision loss.
Can AMD Be Prevented?
Although some of the risk factors for AMD, like age and genetics, are out of your control, there are things you can to do reduce your risk of getting AMD and losing vision to the disease.
- Do not smoke.
- Make sure your daily diet includes plenty of fruits, nuts and dark, leafy greens.
- Eat fish or take a fish oil supplement.
- Exercise regularly.
- When going outdoors, protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses with 99 to 100 percent protection from UVA and UVB rays.
- Consider taking a daily supplement with the AREDS/AREDS2 formulation. Research shows the combination of vitamins and minerals are beneficial to individuals with the dry form of AMD.
- See our eye doctor regularly for dilated eye exams so they can detect any signs of a problem early.
With preventative care and regular eye health exams, early detection of macular degeneration is highly possible. By taking advantage of regular retinal exams, our eye doctor can work to examine the blood vessels surrounding the macula. We may also suggest making certain dietary and health changes in an effort to reduce your risk of AMD.
How Is AMD Diagnosed?
To diagnose AMD, our eye doctor will first review your personal medical history as well as your family history of any eye diseases. They will dilate your pupils and use special instruments to examine the back of your eye, where your retina and macula are. They will look for any drusen, or yellow deposits that form underneath the retina, as well as any fluid or blood leaking from blood vessels.
A test called the Amsler grid is commonly used in the diagnosis of AMD. If you have macular degeneration and look at the grid, the straight lines may appear wavy, or parts of the grid may appear broken or otherwise distorted.
Another test commonly used to diagnose AMD is fluorescein angiography. During the test, a colored dye will be injected into your arm. The dye will travel through your bloodstream to the tiny blood vessels of the retina. A camera will take photographs of these blood vessels in the retina to look for any irregular blood vessels or other problems.
Optical coherence tomography may also be used to capture detailed cross-sections of the retina. These images will show areas of the retina that have thinned, thickened or swelled.
AMD cannot be cured, but certain treatments can slow the progression of the disease and preserve vision.
The best way to delay the progression of dry AMD is to take a daily supplement with the AREDS/AREDS2 formulation. The vitamins and minerals in this supplement have been shown to delay or prevent AMD-related vision loss.
Medications can be injected into the eye to stop the growth of new blood vessels. Known as anti-VEGF drugs, medications like Avastin and Lucentis block the effects of vascular endothelial growth factor, a protein that stimulates the formation of blood vessels.
Another way to treat abnormal blood vessels is through photodynamic therapy (PDT). Our doctor can inject a special drug into your arm that will travel to the blood vessels in your eye. The doctor will shine a light into the blood vessels to activate the drug, which causes the blood vessels to close.
Laser photocoagulation can also reduce the number of abnormal blood vessels and slow their leaking. The laser energy is aimed at the vessels to seal them off and prevent the spread of the blood vessels.
Macular Degeneration FAQs
Who is most likely to be affected by macular degeneration?
Individuals who are over the age of 65, smoke or have a family history of macular degeneration are most likely to get the disease. The disease is also more likely to affect Caucasians.
Other risk factors include sun exposure and poor nutrition.
What are some signs that I might have developed macular degeneration?
- You need more light in order to see clearly to read or perform other daily tasks.
- Straight lines appear wavy.
- You have night vision problems.
- There are blurry or shadowy areas in your central vision.
Sometimes there are no noticeable symptoms in the early stages of the disease. If you undergo regular eye examinations, our eye doctors may detect signs of macular degeneration before you experience any symptoms.
If I get macular degeneration, what are my treatment options?
No actual cure currently exists for macular degeneration, although certain therapeutic treatments may slow the progression of the disease and prevent or delay vision loss. Common treatments include long-term periodic intravitreal injections (i.e., shots of medicine into the eye) or, less commonly, photodynamic therapy or laser photocoagulation to stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels. Contact us to begin exploring your treatment options.
Does macular degeneration affect both eyes?
It is possible for macular degeneration to develop in only one eye. As the disease advances, both eyes are usually affected.
What are the types of macular degeneration?
Dry macular degeneration is the most common type of the disease and occurs when the macular tissue thins and yellow deposits called drusen form in the macula.
Wet macular degeneration is less common, but more advanced than the dry form of the disease. In wet macular degeneration, abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the retina and leak blood and other fluids.
Is there any way to avoid getting macular degeneration?
Although you cannot control your age or family history, you may be able to reduce your risk by taking the following measures:
- Quit smoking or do not start.
- Eat a nutritious diet full of foods like leafy greens, nuts, fruits and fish.
- Exercise regularly.
- Protect your eyes from exposure to the sun by wearing sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat when going outdoors.
- Have regular eye exams.
What foods should be avoided with macular degeneration?
Generally, foods that are high in fat or highly processed should be avoided. That includes foods like potato chips, cookies and cake.
What does the Amsler grid do?
The Amsler grid is a graph that is used to test vision for macular degeneration. In someone with the disease, the lines of the grid will look wavy or distorted.
Can I drive if I have macular degeneration?
It depends on how badly macular degeneration has affected your vision. In the early stages, you may not see any noticeable decline in your vision. But as the disease progresses and you lose the central vision you need to see road signs, pedestrians and other cars, you might need to stop driving.
Can I go blind from macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration affects central vision and can cause legal blindness, but it cannot cause total blindness because it does not affect peripheral vision.
Make an Appointment
Interested in learning more about AMD? Contact us today to schedule a consultation.