Causes and treatments for macular degeneration

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Just as the name reflects, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) has been a severe eye disease among people older than 65. The estimated number of AMD influenced Americans is 3 million by 2020. As a part of the retina, macula is responsible for providing sharp and central vision. When this critical part of the eye suffers damage or dysfunction, vision loss is the inevitable consequence. More exactly, patients with macular degeneration usually suffer central vision loss, whilst their peripheral vision is still good.macular degeneration

Symptoms and reasons for dry AMD

There are generally two types: dry AMD and wet AMD, the former of which accounts for about 85-90 percent. Obvious symptoms of dry AMD include yellowish spots from deposits or debris from deteriorating tissue around the macula. Both macular tissue aging and thinning and pigment depositing can lead to dry AMD. Studies show that vitamin A, C and E may help prevent or slow progression of dry AMD. Dry AMD patients are also advised to wear sunglasses when outdoors, in case of extra ocular damage from harmful UV radiation.

Signs of wet AMD and its causes

People suffering from wet AMD have more severe problems: new blood vessels growth beneath the retina and blood and fluid leakage, which damage light-sensitive retinal cells. Wet AMD can be caused by the body’s misguided attempt to supply more nutrients and oxygen to the retina, which instead causes scarring and potential vision loss. Occult wet AMD has light blood leakage and low danger of vision loss, while classic wet AMD has clear scarring and high danger of vision loss.

How to diagnose AMD and what are risky factors?

If you have AMD, your central vision has shadowy areas. During a retinal exam, the doctor may detect early signs of AMD and then an Amsler grid can be used to measure your central vision. For a further affirmation, your retinal blood vessels surrounding the macula will be examined. Many researches have showed that macular degeneration is mostly caused by aging and eye tissue deterioration. Other confirmed or potential risk factors of AMD include drug side effects, smoking, family ADM history, high blood pressure, lighter eye color, obesity, over-exposure to UV lights, fat diet and so on.

Which groups of people are at a higher risk?

AMD-influenced people in their 90s will suffer vision loss at a possibility that is 15 times of that for patients in their 60s. And overweight patients have a risk of developing advanced ADM that is double of that for people with a normal body weight. Gene variants are also related to AMD, which is known as family disease. Smoking is reported to bring higher rates of vision loss on ADM patients. AMD occurs more frequently in whites, so that people with lighter eye color are suspected to suffer AMD at a higher incidence. Toxic drugs such as Aralen and phenothiazine may cause side effects that possibly lead to AMD.

AMD is beyond outright cure until now

Currently, no outright cure is available for AMD victims. For dry AMD, FDA has never approved any treatment, although nutritional intervention is widely taken to slow down its progression. Those nutrients include zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin A, C, and E. For wet AMD, FDA has approved drugs including Lucentis, Macugen and Visudyne to stop or slow abnormal blood vessel growth.

About AMD detection and remedy

Since complete recovery from vision loss caused by AMD is impossible, regular Amsler grid tests are useful for detecting the underlying AMD risk. Unfortunately, patients who have already had vision loss linked with macular degeneration have to ask for low vision devices for help. Now, magnifying glasses, hand-held magnifiers and some other tools are available.