Macular degeneration, or also called age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects the macula, which is the central most part of the retina in the back of the eye. This area of the retina is used for central visual tasks, such as reading, driving and facial recognition. Although there is no cure for AMD, early detection and treatment can help reduce progressive vision loss.
There are two kinds of macular degeneration: dry and wet. With dry AMD there is a gradual break down of the central retinal tissues that make up the macula. It is the most common form and symptoms generally develop very slowly over time. With wet AMD, weak blood vessels develop under the macula which rupture to form a bleed causing rapid central vision loss. Wet AMD is less common and accounts for 10 percent of all cases. It is important to understand that dry AMD can eventually convert over to the wet form. Early detection of the disease is crucial in preventing severe vision loss.
In the very beginning stages of the eye disease people are often symptom free and a diagnosis can only be made during routine eye examinations by a Doctor of Optometry. Once a diagnosis has been made your eye doctor will recommend wearing sunglasses to help protect against UV radiation. Additionally, if you are a smoker, you should stop smoking. Eye vitamins are also important. Supplements which have vitamins A, C, E, lutein, zeaxanthin as well as zinc are all important in slowing down progression. If the dry form converts over to the wet form your optometrist will send you to an ophthalmologist to have anti-VEGF injections put into the eye to help stop leaking blood vessels.
If you have symptoms of AMD, and/or you have a family history, it is important to have your eyes examined by an optometrist.