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Facts about Macular Degeneration

Updated on July 1, 2019
Pamela99 profile image

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

Amazing Eye

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Macular Degeneration Facts

The leading cause of vision loss is macular degeneration (AMD), which affects more than 10 million Americans. This number is more than glaucoma and cataracts combined. This condition is considered incurable. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and researchers from the University of Wisconsin have concluded that 6.5% of Americans over the age of 50 have some degree of macular degeneration.

In England and Wales, 50% of patients with severe visual impairment is caused by AMD, which is an estimated 1.5 million people. The prediction of people that will be affected worldwide by 2020, is 196 million people, and by 2040, it will be 288 million.

Physical Manifestations of Macular Degeneration?

The central portion of the retina, which is called the macula deteriorates with this disorder. The back layer in the eye records images we see; then, the images are sent via the optic nerve to the brain. The macula is the portion of the eye responsible for focusing vision in the eye.

The macula is responsible for central vision giving us the ability to focus, and it also controls our ability to recognize colors or faces and to see objects in fine detail. The ability to read or drive a car is impacted severely by this disorder.

Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) - Elliott Sohn, MD

Three Stages of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

The greatest risk factor for Macular Degeneration (AMD) is advancing age as the risk increases for people over the age of 55 and older.

The stages of Age-related of Macular Degeneration includes:

  1. Early AMD typically does not include vision loss, and this is certainly a good reason to get regular eye examinations. This is especially important if you have one of the risk factors, which are listed below. Early AMD is diagnosed by the presence of medium-sized drusen, which are yellow deposits beneath the retina.
  2. Intermediate AMD may involve some vision loss, but there are no other symptoms that are noticeable.
  3. Late AMD will have very noticeable symptoms.

Two Forms of Macular Degeneration

The dry form of this disease has yellow deposits called drusen in the macula. As the drusen grow and increase in numbers, they will probably cause a distortion or dimming of the vision. A thinning of the light-sensitive layer of macula cells occurs as this disease advances, which results in atrophy or tissue death. Blind spots in the center of the vision may occur in advanced states of this disease, therefore, patients lose central vision. Peripheral vision is not affected. Most patients have the dry form of macular degeneration.

The wet form of macular degeneration has abnormal blood vessels growing from the choroid that is underneath the macula, and it is called choroidal neovascular. These blood vessels leak fluid and blood into the retina and fluid can buildup in the back of the eye. This process causes visual distortions, causing straight lines to look wavy. There are also blind spots in the central vision. A scar is formed eventually that will cause permanent loss of central vision.

While most people have the dry form of AMD, it can eventually lead to the wet form. Approximately 10% of patients end up with the wet form of AMD, and they are the ones that have the greatest degree of visual loss. Social isolation and depression can be other effects of this disease. Patients may also experience visual hallucinations, known as the Charles Bonnet syndrome.

Macula of the Retina

Source

Risk Factors for AMD

There is a genetic component as people with a family history are at an increased risk. Caucasians are also at a higher risk.

Other factors that may increase your risk of macular degeneration include:

  1. People that are over the age of 50.
  2. Smoking doubles the risk of getting AMD.
  3. Obesity increases the chance of eye or intermediate macular degeneration, and it will often progress to a more severe form of this disease.
  4. Hypertension and cardiovascular disease may also put you at a higher risk.
  5. Exposure to UV light directly from the sun or blue light is also weakly associated.

Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) - Elliott Sohn, MD

Common Symptoms of Wet Macular Degeneration

  • A decreased intensity and brightness of color

  • Looking at straight lines that seem curved

  • Reduced central vision out of one or both eyes

  • Blind spots or well-defined blurry spots in the field of vision

  • The overall vision will have a general haziness

  • An abrupt onset and rapid worsening of symptoms

Can You Prevent AMD?

Routine eye exams will help identify any abnormalities in the eyes, and the ophthalmologist will certainly recognize early symptoms, which can help prevent the development of wet AMD. It is not preventable, but it may be slowed.

Some things that may reduce the risk of AMD include:

  1. Seek to manage any other medical conditions, such as taking prescribed medications to treat hypertension or cardiovascular disease.
  2. Stop smoking as that certainly puts you at a higher risk of AMD.
  3. Exercise regularly and maintain a normal weight.
  4. Eat a healthy diet with fresh fruit and vegetables. Nuts and fish are beneficial due to omega-3 and fatty acids.

Mavcular Degeneration

Source

Treatments

There are some medications that are used when treating wet macular degeneration, and they include:

  • Bevacizumab (Avastin)
  • Aflibercept (Eylea)
  • Ranibizumab (Lucentis)

These medications are injected directly into the affected eye, and they may be needed as often as every 4 weeks. If the blood vessels shrink or the fluid under the retina absorbs, then the vision may improve. There are some possible side effects that include conjunctival hemorrhage, floaters, eye pain, increased eye pressure or inflammation.

Another therapy is photodynamic therapy, which treats abnormal blood vessels in the macula. Verteporfin (Visudyne) is injected in the vein, then a special laser light is shone on the abnormal blood vessels in the eye. Abnormal blood vessels close and leakage stops. Repeated procedures may need to be used if the blood vessels reopen.

Photocoagulation therapy uses a high-energy laser beam to seal abnormal blood vessels. There is also an Implantable Miniature Telescope that magnifies images onto the retina, which actually reduces the size of the central vision blind spot. This telescope is about the size of a pea, and it is for end-stage macular degeneration. The patient can recognize people and see facial expressions with this device.

In Summary

Ideally, macular degeneration is detected early, so a patient can be monitored closely. If wet macular degeneration occurs treatment may be started earlier to reach a better outcome.

Macular Degeneration

Have you had an experience with macular degeneration?

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Pamela Oglesby

Comments

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  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Lori, I hope they find a cure too. I know it is a little scary to get this diagnosis as you have to be more concerned about losing some of your viision. I hope you keep your vision as it is now with no worsening in your future.

  • lambservant profile image

    Lori Colbo 

    6 weeks ago from Pacific Northwest

    I just watched the video and surprised to hear the wet form is easier to treat. I sure hope they find a cure.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Lori, I hope your surgery on your left eye will improve your vision. I had cataract surgery on both of my eyes and had lenses put in to improve my vision, which it did I had worn glasses since I was about 13 so it was a joy to not wear them for a while.

    I have a good friend with macular degeneration, and her vision is not as good as it once was, but the disease has moved very slowly with her, so I hope it will move slowly with you also. I think she is taking those vitamins also. They should help you, and certainly, they won't hurt.

    I am glad you found this article helpful, and I wish you the best vision possible for the future. Thanks for sharing your experience, and I appreciate your comments.

  • lambservant profile image

    Lori Colbo 

    6 weeks ago from Pacific Northwest

    I was diagnosed a few years ago and I get eye exams regularly. All this time I had no symptoms yet. About a month ago I had cataract surgery on my right eye. The results were disappointing. At my second post-op appt the other day he said my vision in that eye was now 20/30 which is great however, my vision is still impaired. He said it is probably the macular degeneration kicking in. O joy. In a few weeks, I will have cataract surgery on the left eye. I have never had bad eyesight except for a slight astigmatism and of course reading glasses when I came into my late 40s. I always had excellent distance vision. That is no longer with either eye. The eyesight in my right eye I will admit has improved quite a bit but still isn't perfect for distance and sometimes closer up.

    Sometimes it has to do with lighting, font and color if its a sign, poster, or something with lettering. I am taking Preser Vision Ahreds 2 eye vitamin and mineral supplement recommended by eye doctor. Are you familiar with it? If so, what is your opinion or knowledge of it. I really appreciate this article.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Maria, I am glad you stopped by today and made such very nice remarks. I try to do enough research that my articles are accurate. I appreciate you commenting. Hugs Maria, Pam

  • marcoujor profile image

    Maria Jordan 

    6 weeks ago from Jeffersonville PA

    Informative and well-researched, dear Pamela. Thanks especially for distinguishing between wet and dry AMD.

    I have lots of catching up to do over the weekend with your posts, which never disappoint. Hugs, Maria

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Robert, I agree with you. Thank you for your comment.

  • Robert Sacchi profile image

    Robert Sacchi 

    2 months ago

    It is frightening that there is incurable.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Genna, My father lost most of his vision before he passed away, and he loved to read also. It is so sad. I appreciate our comments.

  • Genna East profile image

    Genna East 

    2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

    Hi Pamela. Excellent article. My mother suffered from AMD, which was difficult as she did so love to read. Thank you for giving us the facts surrounding this unfortunate disease.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Linda, I appreciate your nice comments. Happy 4th of July!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Dr. Muhmood, Thank you so much for your very nice compliment.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Lora, You really summed out the important ways of working to prevent this disease. Thank you for your comments. Have a Happy 4th of July!

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    2 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

    This is an interesting article that contains important information. Thank you for sharing the facts and the advice, Pamela.

  • Kulsum Mehmood profile image

    Dr Kulsum Mehmood 

    2 months ago from Nagpur, India

    Macular degeneration, nicely explained .....

  • Lora Hollings profile image

    Lora Hollings 

    2 months ago

    Wonderful article, Pamela! It is a disease that affects millions of people and consequently as your article emphasizes the importance of routine eye exams so that if you have this disease it can be detected early so that it can be monitored and treatment started for a better outcome. Also knowing the risk factors also can help to prevent this disease from occurring. A healthy diet and weight, regular exercise, not smoking these will also help you to avoid the onset of this disease. Thanks for enlightening us with this great information.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Bronwen, I have a friend with this problem also. I am glad you have a new understanding of this disorder. Thank you for your comments.

  • BlossomSB profile image

    Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

    2 months ago from Victoria, Australia

    I have a friend with this problem, so thank you for such a clear explanation of the disease.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Lori, I am so sorry to hear that. The wet form is heartbreaking. Going blind would be awful. It must have been awful for you too. Thank you for sharing.

  • lambservant profile image

    Lori Colbo 

    2 months ago from Pacific Northwest

    I forgot to add that my grandmother had the wet form and she was devastated. It took a great toll on her. Her depression was severe. She had hallucinations but I never knew what the exact cause was. Now I know. I had thought perhaps it was part of her depression (psychosis). Along with all of that her hearing loss was pretty bad also. She was able to afford hearing aids but they were not as helpful as the ones they have now. All her friends and family were gone except her twin sister. When she died it did her in. Such painful memories as I speak of it.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Me, I am sorry to hear that your mother and her brothers had this disease. Seeing your doctor regularly is a good plan. I appreciate your comments.

  • Mel Carriere profile image

    Mel Carriere 

    2 months ago from San Diego California

    This topic is near and dear to my heart. My mother and both her brothers have this. I don't think it hit them until their late 60s, early 70s, however. I think I'll get on the phone to my opthalmologist right now!

    Great article. People need to learn about this debilitating disease.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Pop, I agree. I appreciate your comments.

  • breakfastpop profile image

    breakfastpop 

    2 months ago

    Having regular exams is, in my opinion, the best way to go.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Peg, I am so sorry to hear about your aunt. It must be so difficult for her. I very much appreciate your comments about the article.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Liz, The timing of your conversation is one of those crazy coincidences. I appreciate your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Kaili, Sorry to hear about your aunt and hope her vision stays well. Thank you so much for your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Linda, I agree that losing your vision would be terribly scary. Healthy living is so important for prevention for so many diseases, but there are no guarantees. Thank you for your kind comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Peggy, I am glad you liked the article. Regular eye exams are more important as we age. I appreciate your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Bill, I am glad you found the article interesting. Thank you for commenting.

  • PegCole17 profile image

    Peg Cole 

    2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

    My mother's sister had this in its advanced stage. It grew much worse over time after she passed her 85th birthday. We went to a specialist and he was unable to do anything to help her. It was difficult for her to deal with and she frequently would hold things at different angles to try and see the details.

    Your article clearly explains the disease, its causes and the results. Thanks for sharing this informative piece.

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    2 months ago from UK

    Only today I was able to refer to your article when talking to a friend about her eye condition.

  • Kaili Bisson profile image

    Kaili Bisson 

    2 months ago from Canada

    Fascinating article Pamela, great work. My Aunt had MD and she went for laser treatments.

  • Carb Diva profile image

    Linda Lum 

    2 months ago from Washington State, USA

    Pamela, I think I could cope with the loss of hearing or speech, but blindness would be so supremely isolating. How frightening. I knew of the disease but not the facts and details. Thank you for this informative article. It's also good to know that one can possibly avoid the problem with careful diet and lifestyle.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge of medicine with all of us, in this and your past articles. I look forward to more.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    2 months ago from Houston, Texas

    This is an excellent article, Pamela. Regular eye exams are vitally important for diagnosing diseases or conditions of the eye when they are more easily treated. Will pin this to my health board.

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 

    2 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    Thank you Pamela my big sister has this and gets the injection type treatments. It certainly has stopped degeneration but just a tiny tiny bit of improvement. It is always good to know more about a disease effecting a loved one. I will call her up today.

    Glad I stopped smoking. Eye exam will be scheduled today.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    2 months ago from Olympia, WA

    I've heard of it but had no idea what it was. Thanks for the very interesting information, Pamela!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Liz, I am glad you are interested in this article, and I appreciate your very kind input.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Lorna, I have seen that too. Losing your vision is a horrible problem. I appreciate your nice comments.

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    2 months ago from UK

    As I know some people with this condition I have taken a great interest in this article. You have covered the issue in a through, helpful and well-structured manner.

  • Lorna Lamon profile image

    Lorna Lamon 

    2 months ago

    Great article with lots of information. It is so important to adopt a healthy lifestyle and in particular where macular degeneration is concerned, as I have seen how people struggle with everyday living who have this condition.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Chitrangada, Living a healthy lifestyle can prevent a lot of diseases, as you said. I am glad this article gave you some new information. Thank you so much for your nice comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Jason, I sure hope phones won't cause people to get this disease. Age is certainly a big factor now, but that could change. Maybe they will find a better way to stop this disease. I appreciate your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Flourish, I am sorry to hear about your grandparents. Maybe smoking was the case in their case. I have a friend in the beginning stages of AMD. Thanks for commenting.

  • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

    Chitrangada Sharan 

    2 months ago from New Delhi, India

    A valuable and informative article.

    I wasn’t aware of this medical term, macular degeneration. Thanks for the education and awareness.

    This sounds different from glaucoma. But it’s good to know that adopting a healthy lifestyle, can prevent this eye disease.

    As with other medical conditions, prevention is better than cure.

    Thanks for sharing this well explained article.

  • manunulat profile image

    Jason M Quinapondan 

    2 months ago from Cebu, Philippines

    Very informative and well researched article. I hope the numbers who suffer from this won't get high and even younger since a lot is exposed to blue light from using smartphones. Though it has weak association.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 

    2 months ago from USA

    My grandfather (who died several years ago) went blind from this and it was very difficult for him because he could no longer drive and had been the principal caregiver for my grandmother who now has been diagnosed with the condition as well. Both were long term smokers.

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