Improving Your Look

Don't Let Age-Related Macular Degeneration Steal Your Vision

One of the diseases that can erode your eyesight as you get older is age-related macular degeneration, or AMD. This disease is slow to present symptoms as it affects your vision. Here is what you need to know about AMD and how to keep it from robbing you of your vision.

The Causes of Vision Loss

There are two types of AMD. In each case, your retina is damaged. Light is prevented from hitting the retina, causing vision loss. Severe cases of AMD can result in full or partial blindness. Your eye doctor will diagnose which variety you have and make recommendations on how to treat it before you lose more of your sight.

Wet AMD - Small blood vessels develop on the retina. The walls of these blood vessels are weak, allowing fluid to leak out onto the retina. When enough fluid has accumulated on the retina, your vision becomes blurry and you'll have difficulty focusing clearly on objects.

Dry AMD - In this variety of the disease, dry yellow deposits form on the retina over the central portion called the macula. As the deposits accumulate, you'll develop dark spots in your central vision. When severe, you'll lose all sight in the middle of your visual field.

Treatment Options

Any existing damage from either wet or dry AMD cannot be restored, but treatment is available to prevent further loss. Regular exams by your eye doctor will catch the early signs of AMD so treatment can be started to prevent vision loss. The treatment approaches used depend on the type of AMD you have.

Wet AMD Treatment

Stopping the growth of new blood vessels - A medication is injected into the eye that prevents the development of the weak blood vessels on the retina. These injections may need to be done regularly to stop their growth. Existing blood vessels that have recently formed will shrink and the leaked fluid is absorbed by your eye tissue.

Destroying existing weak blood vessels - If you have a number of these weak blood vessels already in your eye, a medication can be injected into your bloodstream that makes its way into your eye. Your ophthalmologist shines a special light into your eye that activates the chemical. The chemical causes the weak blood vessels to shrink and close. This treatment may also need to be done on a regular basis.

Laser eye surgery - Your doctor can use a laser focused on the weak blood vessels to dry them up so your body can absorb them. This done as an outpatient in your doctor's office with a local anesthesia.

Dry AMD Treatment

This condition is more difficult to treat as there is no target to treat, such as the weak blood vessels in wet AMD.

Dietary treatment - Some vitamins and minerals can slow down the development of dry patches on your retina. Foods rich in the following, or supplements, may be recommended by your eye doctor

  • Vitamins A, C and E
  • Copper
  • Zinc

Surgical lens placement - An additional lens may be inserted into the eye to improve your central vision. This doesn't prevent damage from further dry spots, but it may give you clearer vision as this slowly progressing disease continues.

Laser eye surgery - Your doctor can use a laser to remove some of the dry spots on your retina. This is rarely done to treat dry AMD as it can lead to the development of wet AMD.