Age-Related Macular Degeneration
The macula is a part of the retina in the back of the eye that ensures clear and sharp central vision. Macular degeneration varies widely in severity. For some people, the disease causes only slight distortion. In the worst cases, it can lead to a complete loss of central vision, making reading or driving impossible.
Age-related macular degeneration is the most common cause of vision loss in the United States for people 50 or older, and the chance of getting the disease increases with age. Fortunately, in most cases AMD does not cause total blindness since it usually does not affect the peripheral vision.
Symptoms often associated with macular degeneration include a gradual loss of ability to see objects clearly, distorted vision, gradual loss of color vision, and/or a dark or empty area appearing in the center of vision.
During the eye exam, the doctor looks for abnormalities in the macula. In addition, the appearance of the macula is important to sharp central vision. If the pigmentation is mottled or uneven, instead of its normal even reddish color, macular degeneration may be the cause.
Amsler grid test
As a part of the eye examination, the doctor may evaluate vision using a printed grid. If macular degeneration is present, the lines of the grid may seem faded, broken or distorted. By noting where the distortion occurs (usually near the center of the grid), the doctor can better determine the location and extent of macular damage.
A fluorescein angiography test can help determine the extent of damage from macular degeneration. First, the doctor injects fluorescein dye into a vein in the patient’s arm. As the dye circulates through the bloodstream and eventually to the eye, a camera takes flash photographs of the eye every few seconds for several minutes. The photos help identify pigmentation changes, blood circulation patterns and abnormal blood vessels.
Optical coherence tomography (OCT)
OCT is an imaging method that provides detailed, cross-section images of the retina and its underlying layers. OCT is useful for checking retinal thickness and thinness because it is capable of clearly displaying well-defined tissue boundaries in high resolution. Bright colors are added to the image to highlight specific areas of the retina and to determine how much light they reflect.
In most cases, damage that has already occurred from macular degeneration cannot be reversed, making early detection very important for vision preservation. The goal of macular degeneration treatment is to stop further vision loss. There are two kinds of macular degeneration: “wet” and “dry.” Treatment is based on which form is diagnosed.
This condition normally progresses slowly, and many people who have it can live relatively normal lives, especially if vision is affected only minimally.
Progression of dry macular degeneration can be slowed by taking high doses of the vitamins A, C and E, and the minerals zinc and copper. Patients should discuss these vitamin and mineral supplement treatment options with their doctor. Research is under way to identify other vitamin and mineral combinations that may be viable treatments for dry macular degeneration.
The wet form is the more devastating, more rapidly progressing form of macular degeneration. With this condition, new abnormal blood vessels behind the retina form rapidly. These vessels begin to leak blood and fluid, causing damage to the macula. Treatment is based on the location and extent of the abnormal blood vessels. A consulting retinal specialist provides these treatments at The Eye Clinic.
Anti-angiogenic therapy (injectable drug treatment)
These injection treatments directly target the growing blood vessels. After the ophthalmologist numbs the eye with an anesthetic, the medication is injected into the affected eye, where it stops or slows the blood vessels from growing, leaking and bleeding. The treatment is given every four to six weeks to prevent the blood vessels from causing more vision loss. This therapy causes less damage to the retina than laser treatments. The most common side effect after receiving an injection is redness and scratchiness in the eyeball.
Photocoagulation (laser surgery)
Photocoagulation uses a high-energy laser beam to create small burns in areas of the retina that have abnormal blood vessels. This treatment is used when the abnormal blood vessels are not yet under the area of central vision (fovea). Only a small number of patients are candidates for the procedure. The laser may destroy some surrounding healthy eye tissue and some vision. New blood vessels also may develop after this treatment.
In this treatment, a medication is injected into the bloodstream. It travels to the eye and concentrates in the abnormal blood vessels under the macula. A cold laser light is then applied to the macula, which activates the drug and leads to the closing off of abnormal vessels without damaging the macula. Photodynamic therapy is commonly performed as a combination therapy with other treatments.
Are you searching for a retina specialist in Southwest Louisiana? Contact the eye physicians and surgeons of The Eye Clinic serving the people of Lake Charles, Sulphur, DeRidder, Jennings and more.