Did you know macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in adults? Read about its types, stages, causes, symptoms, and treatment.
Vision loss can be due to various causes and the most commonly encountered is age-related macular degeneration. Currently, it is considered to be a non-curable disease and happens with aging. The eye has a back layer called the retina, which is responsible for the images that we see. The central portion of the retina is called the macula, which is responsible for central vision focus in the eye that ultimately controls the reading ability, driving, face or color recognition, and fine detailing of the objects.
It can be divided into two basic types:
Dry or Non exudative AMD - Most of the cases fall into the category of dry AMD, which is atrophic type and the rest fall into wet or exudative type AMD. Dry form happens when the macular parts get thin with age and tiny clumps of protein called Drusen grow. The central vision is slowly lost, and there is no cure for it yet.
Wet or Exudative AMD form happens when there is a growth of new abnormal blood vessels under the retina. These may lead to scarring of the retina due to blood or fluid leakage. In this type, the vision is lost faster. Sometimes, due to the recessive gene, young people face macular degeneration and is called Stargardt disease.
There are basically three stages of this disease which are as follows:
Early: There is no vision loss in this stage and the deformity can be examined only through an eye examination.
Intermediate: There can be a minimal vision loss in this stage but still not many noticeable symptoms are there. Again, an eye examination is necessary to diagnose the condition.
Late: This is the stage where vision loss is noticeable.
Mostly, it is age-related and hence, can be seen in people above 60 years of age. As mentioned earlier, it can be related to genes also. Some of the risk factors include smoking, hypertension, increased cholesterol, obesity, family history of AMD, light-colored eye, female, light-skinned people,family history of AMD, etc.
Symptoms are mainly dependant on the stages. But some of the alarming symptoms include:
If you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is advisable to consult an eye specialist as soon as possible. Also, it is important to get regular eye examinations done in order to diagnose the condition in its early stages which improves the prognosis.
This disease can be diagnosed in its early stages with regular eye examinations. One of the common early signs includes small yellow spots below the retina.
Another way to check for it is by using the Amsler grid, which is nothing but straight lines making a pattern of a checkerboard. People suffering from this condition may notice that some of the straight lines will appear wavy and some may be missing.
Apart from these tests, some examinations like Fundus Fluorescein Angiography (FFA), OCT will be done to check for fluids or blood under your retina.
As for now, there is no treatment for curing macular degeneration. Treatment given for it may slow down the progression of the disease and decrease the worsening of the symptoms. Some of the management options include:
For Dry AMD-
1.Antioxidant vitamins minerals like Vitamin C (500 mg), Vitamin E (400 IU), Lutein (10 mg), Zeaxanthin (2 mg), Zinc (80 mg), Copper (2 mg).
2.Cessation of smoking.
3.Healthy diet Like consuming green leafy vegetables, multi coloured fruits.
Wet or Exudative AMD Treatment-
1) Anti-VEGF drugs injection inside the eye(intravitreal)- They stop the creation of new blood and also prevent the leakage of fluids in the eye. It has to be noted that studies have shown that those who took these medications and were suffering from wet form got back their vision.
2) Laser therapy - High-energy containing laser light may help in the destruction of abnormal blood vessels or new vessels.
3) Photodynamic laser therapy - Injecting light-sensitive drugs followed by laser treatment.
4) Low vision aids - Devices containing special lenses or electronic systems that help in the creation of larger images of things that are nearby.
Some of the treatment options that are under study include submacular surgery, retinal translocation, etc.
Losing your vision is one of the nightmares coming true. Most of the time, when the symptoms start to appear, the disease would already have reached a late stage. Hence, a routine eye check-up is mandatory for eye health maintenance. With the help of online medical platforms, it has become easy to consult a physician or specialist at the ease of home whenever there is a health-related crisis or doubt. Hence, it is advisable to stay updated by consulting them.
Last reviewed at:
21 Dec 2019 - 3 min read
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