Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a serious public health concern and a leading cause of vision loss in the US of people 50 and older. It destroys retinal cells in the macula, the part of the eye that provides crisp, central vision. It is estimated to be about 9% among those 75 and older, and substantially higher among those of European descent. By the year 2020, it is estimated that globally 200 million individuals will have macular degeneration. Our research department is working hard every day, to find better treatments and outcomes for our patients.
AMD occurs in two forms, or stages, labeled “dry” and “wet”. All cases of AMD start as dry AMD. Over time, there is a slow degeneration or atrophy of cells within the macula. Dry AMD slowly progresses over many years and will cause a variety of symptoms including blurriness, loss of contrast, distortion, and dark or blind spots near the center of vision.
Wet (or exudative or neovascular) AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the retina and begin to leak fluid or blood. This causes the macula to swell up with fluid or lift up and become displaced from its natural flat position, thus causing distortion or destroying central vision. Only a minority of patients develop wet AMD, but those that do often experience rapid, severe vision loss over a period of weeks or months.
Age is a major risk factor in developing AMD. Race is another factor with Caucasians more likely to develop the disease than African-Americans or Latinos. People with a family history of AMD are also at a higher risk as genetics plays a large role in AMD. Research indicates that smoking may double your risk of AMD.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for AMD. Researchers at the National Eye Institue found during the AREDS2 trial that taking high doses of certain vitamins and minerals daily help slow the disease progression in those with intermediate or late stage dry AMD. This is our current best treatment. Look for the following specific formula:
- 500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C
- 400 international units of vitamin E
- 80 mg zinc as zinc oxide
- 2 mg copper as cupric oxide
- 10 mg lutein and 2 mg zeaxanthin
There are several treatment therapies for wet AMD to try and slow or stop the bleeding caused by abnormal blood vessels. It is important to treat as soon as leaking occurs to preserve best possible vision, and an at home Amsler grid is an easy self-test to monitor vision. It is common for your eye doctor to monitor progression of AMD with an OCT scan or fluorescein angiography. Injections of anti-VEGF medication into the eye are the most common and effective way to treat wet AMD, and are usually administered monthly. This intravitreal injection sounds frightening, but we take steps to completely anesthetize the eye, so it is not painful. Another choice to treat neovascular AMD is with Photodynamic Therapy (PDT). A medicine is intravenously infused throughout the body and activated via a cold laser at the specific location of these abnormal vessels to destroy them and stop leakage.
At Retina Specialists of Michigan, we are committed to treating our macular degeneration patients with the utmost of care and cutting-edge evidence-based treatments. Call us today at (616) 954-2020 to schedule your appointment and receive the service that you’ve always wanted in a provider.