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What Is Macular Degeneration (AMD) and How Is It Treated?

We have all heard the human eye referred to as a camera. The retina in the back of the eye sends electrical impulses to the brain along the optic nerve. The brain converts these impulses to what we recognize as visual images. The Macula is the small central part of the retina that takes the picture if you will. The macula is responsible for the acute central vision we use to see fine details, recognize faces, read, drive, and sew.

When the macula is healthy, relatively dry and intact, we have good visual acuity. When the macula degenerates, we have a problem.

senior woman getting eye exam

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD/ARMD)

When the cells that make up the macula deteriorate, those images are no longer received by the brain correctly. People begin to experience blurred or wavy vision and in many cases, central vision is eventually completely lost.  The diagnosis of legal blindness can occur, even though the retina is still working and they retain their peripheral vision. No more, reading, driving, face recognition, etc.

Types of Macular Degeneration

Dry Macular Degeneration:

The most common form of AMD; approximately 85 to 90% of patients with AMD have the dry type.

Dry AMD is a result of the aging and thinning of macular tissues. It is diagnosed when drusen or yellow spots start to accumulate in the macula. Drusen is thought to be deposits of debris left as the macula deteriorates.

This is why regular eye and vision examinations are even more important as we age. The early stage of AMD may occur without any symptoms.

Wet Macular Degeneration:

In approximately 10% of cases, dry AMD progresses to the more advanced, wet form.

In wet macular degeneration, new blood vessels grow beneath the retina and leak fluid and blood. This leakage permanently damages the retina causing retinal cells to die off. Scarring occurs, creating blind spots in the central vision.

As with dry AMD, the early and even intermediary stages of wet AMD do not cause troubling symptoms.

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among older Americans. As we age, we should never just assume those vision problems are a ‘normal part of getting old.’

A comprehensive vision examination will detect AMD, whatever type or stage.

What causes AMD and can it be prevented?

Ongoing studies are still unable to identify conclusively AMD’s complex causes, although it is believed that both heredity and environment contribute to the disease development.

Other risk factors may include:

  • Smoking: (you double the risk of AMD if you smoke)
  • Aging:  One in three seniors (over age 80) has AMD
  • Obesity: Overweight patients with AMD have double the risk of developing a more advanced form than people of normal weight with AMD.
  • Inactivity: Some studies show that those AMD patients who exercise vigorously at least three times a week reduce their risk of developing more advanced AMD, compared to inactive patients with AMD.

How Can We Treat AMD?

Having regular thorough eye examinations performed by a skilled optometrist is vital to detecting the presence of an early treatment of AMD.

Changes to lifestyle including nutrition, medications and age-appropriate exercise can go far in halting the progress of your AMD.

Dr. Mailhot and the Family Eye Health & Contact Lens Center are the vision care providers of choice here in the Lewiston area. In addition to the medical treatment of eye diseases, we offer both pre- and post-operative care.

If you have any questions about AMD or think you or a loved one may be suffering from the disease, please give us a call at 207-782-9501. We are your optometrist in Lewiston, ME.   

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