Age Related Macular Degeneration, or AMD, is the leading cause of blindness in the aging population. The macula is the site of central vision in your eye and is important for reading, driving, watching TV, etc. This degenerative disease slowly chips away at the central vision site and makes reading or driving more and more cumbersome. Eventually it may lead to blindness.
People at increased risk are seniors and Caucasians; especially if there is a family history of this disease. Additional risk factors are heart- and blood vessel diseases, high blood pressure, and being overweight. Smoking is an additional and severe risk factor as well.
Difficulty with reading is usually the first symptom; ultimately a central blind or blurred spot will develop. Although this will not lead to complete blindness; it will severely affect the quality of life. The disease starts as loss of quality of the central retina and is called “dry” degeneration. Later on leakage and hemorrhage of abnormal vessels can develop, leading to a rapid worsening. This is the wet variety of AMD.
Eliminating risk factors such as smoking will help reduce vision loss. Fortunately, recent advancements in medical therapies have emerged which can slow down or stop this wet disease.
If the site of leakage and bleeding is outside the central vision area, sometimes a small laser burn at that site will stop progression of AMD and preserve vision. If the problems are right in the center of vision, laser may not be a good option. A new treatment has been developed which requires a series of injections in the eye directly.
These injections are very well tolerated with minimal discomfort. The results are encouraging and central vision loss can be prevented or reduced.
Early warning signs of wet AMD are distortion and vision loss. If seen on time, a lot of damage can be avoided if treatments are started in a timely fashion.