Also known as age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), this retinal condition is a leading cause of blindness in those age 70 and up. More than 10 million Americans are affected. There is no cure, but some treatment is available. Board-certified ophthalmologist Binoy R. Jani. M.D. explains what you need to know about macular degeneration and how to recognize signs and symptoms.
The retina records images and sends them to the brain via the optic nerve. When the macula, the central area of the retina, begins to deteriorate, ARMD results. Central vision is affected, but not peripheral vision.
There are two types of ARMD. Most patients are diagnosed with the dry form. With age, the macula becomes thinner. Minute protein clumps known as drusen deposit beneath the retina. Drusen do not cause ARMD, but their presence is a frequent indicator of the disease. The larger the drusen, the more likely vision loss will occur. Over time, the patient loses central vision.
While the wet form of ARMD is far less common, it is more serious. Abnormal new blood vessels develop under the retina. If these blood vessels leak, macular scarring takes place. Vision loss is much faster with wet ARMD than with dry ARMD.
Signs and Symptoms
Because ARMD shows few symptoms in its earliest stages, a diagnosis at this point is generally due to an eye exam.
Eventually, vision becomes fuzzy or blurry. When reading, patients might notice lines waving on the page or blurred print. Eyes become more sensitive to glare. More light is necessary to read or perform work close-up. Recognizing faces becomes harder too.
A blind spot appears in the field of vision.
While everyone is vulnerable to ARMD, there are certain risk factors increasing the odds of developing the disease. A family history of ARMD increases your risk, as does smoking or obesity. Caucasians are at a higher risk than other races. Other risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- Diet high in saturated fat
There is currently no treatment for the dry form of ARMD. Taking vitamin and mineral supplements recommended by your ophthalmologist may slow ARMD progression. Research indicates a healthy diet consisting of plenty of leafy greens, fish, and fruits and vegetables may aid in vision retention.
Medications are available for treating wet ARMD. Periodic injections into the eye of an anti- vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) drug prevents the formation of abnormal blood vessels.
Testing for ARMD is an integral part of an eye examination. If you experience symptoms of ARMD, or if you are due for an eye examination, contact Vista Eye Specialists and schedule a consultation. Early diagnosis can be instrumental in slowing vision loss.