by: Brian Oulman, OD
Age-Related Macular Degeneration, also known as AMD, is a leading cause of blindness in the United States. AMD destroys a part of your retina known as the Macula. The macula is responsible for your central eyesight as well as distinguishing colors. Despite the macula being as wide as a grain of rice, the importance of the macula to how we see is unmeasurable. There are 2 distinct forms of AMD, dry and wet.
Dry AMD is the slow, progressive type that usually takes years to decades to cause serious visual changes. As the name implies, there is an accumulation of dry deposits called Drusen in the macular region. The continued accumulation is what causes the eyesight damage. You may hear your eye doctor use terms such as, early, intermediate or late stage AMD to carefully determine the stage of the disease. These stages correspond to the amount of vision loss and the amount of drusen noted in the macula. There is no cure at this time for Dry AMD, however, we do know that specific eye vitamins (Lutein and Zeaxanthin), Ultraviolet protection and not smoking all help patients prevent or potentially slow the progression of the disease. Most patients diagnosed with macular degeneration have the Dry form, although, some will progress into the Wet form of AMD.
Wet AMD corresponds with a rapid decrease in vision caused by fluid in the macula. As the drusen accumulate it can progress and damage a specific barrier layer that protects the macula. If the protective layer is compromised, then new blood vessels (known as neovascularization) or actual blood can leak into the macula causing damage. Our state of the art OCT will be able to determine the extent of damage. Depending on how quickly this condition is diagnosed and treated, some eyesight may return. Yes, I did say treatment! Wet AMD has a treatment option issued by a retinal specialist. Injections are the treatment option which are designed to stop the fluid and/or the neovascularization. These injections help dry up the inside of the eye. Again, vision may or may not return, usually it’s never the same.
The Optometric Physicians at Central Oregon Eyecare have the technology to accurately diagnose and monitor this condition. We work with the top retinal specialist in Central Oregon, if injections are needed. Since AMD steals a patients’ central vision, it is important to educate those patients losing their vision to prepare for the loss of vision. There are services to help train patients on what to expect, while other services will provide home inspections and go through rooms to provide upgrade ideas to compensate for the loss of vision. AMD takes more than just eyesight, think of cooking and now imagine cooking without your eyesight. Please make sure you and your loved ones have an annual eye health exam to maintain a wonderful way of life.