Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a common disease that affects central vision and is the leading cause of severe vision loss among people over the age of sixty. Researchers estimate that one in 2000 people in the developed world are afflicted with macular degeneration and as people come to live longer lives that number will continue to rise.
The eye works by focusing light from the outside world onto the retina, a kind of projection screen at the back of the eye. Cells lining the retina then translate this visual stimulation into neural impulses that are then transmitted, via your optic nerve, back into the brain for interpretation. Macular degeneration occurs when the macula, the central part of the retina with the greatest concentration of the most sensitive optical cells, begins to suffer deterioration. As a result, the fine detail vision necessary for reading, distinguishing faces, or driving a car becomes blurred and distorted. Over time that distortion can progress to an increasingly large dark spot in the center of the visual field.
The degeneration itself results from small, yellow deposits, called drusen, that form on the macula at the back of the eye. In the more common, “dry” form of the disease, the drusen grow slowly but steadily and, while they cannot be completely cured, their progression has been shown to be slowed in many patients with a combination or regular exercise and a healthy diet high in green, leafy vegetables and fish. In about 10% of patients, this develops into the faster-progressing “wet” AMD, where new abnormal and very fragile blood vessels grow under the macula and begin to leak fluid and blood. Wet AMD causes most of the vision loss associated with the condition, but can be treated with laser surgery, photodynamic therapy, and a combination of special medications and vitamin treatments.
Although there is presently no cure for the dry form of macular degeneration, early detection can often prevent or minimize the extent of vision loss, particularly as new and improved therapies become available. Dr. William Segal and Dr. Marc Lay perform eye exams to diagnose the extent of macular degeneration and diligently work with patients to plan the most effective treatment. In addition to scheduling annual eye exams, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing macular degeneration by: not smoking, maintaining a healthy diet that is high in fruits and vegetables and low in animal fat, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy body weight.
If you have any questions about your vision or the health of your eyes, please contact us today to make an appointment. Be sure to follow Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons, P.C. on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more tips for healthy eyes.