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Macular Degeneration: Why it happens and how it can be treated

Thursday, August 7, 2014 @ 09:08 PM
Author: admin


The retina is an amazing part of the eye. This thin film of tissue is made of neurons of all different types, like rods, cones and a third, very special neuron type called the intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cell. All of these cells are connected through synapses, and as light enters our eye through the cornea and lens, the retina picks up the light and translates it into triggered nerve impulses that travel from our optic nerve into our brain, giving us the sense of sight.

It’s an astounding process. Unfortunately, the retina becomes prone to various disorders, especially as someone grows older. One of the most common of these disorders is called macular degeneration.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-Related Macular Degeneration, sometimes abbreviated as AMD, is the leading cause of severe vision problems in people over the age of 60, and while it can’t completely blind someone, it can still destroy central vision, altogether. People who smoke, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, suffer from obesity, have light skin or light eye color or are female can be at a greater risk of developing macular degeneration.

Furthermore, the condition may be linked to hereditary causes, so if someone in your family has had this condition, you may want to speak with your doctor and find out how at risk you are of getting it. If you do have AMD, you must monitor your vision often, as the condition, in all its forms, can potentially worsen and destroy your central vision, ultimately.

The Causes

When AMD occurs, a specific, small and central part of the retina, called the macular, deteriorates, and this could happen for a few reasons. Around 90 percent of the time it’s because yellow deposits, referred to as drusen, accumulate on the retina. The medical field refers to this as “dry” AMD.

People can have drusen on their retina and not see any difference, but if they accumulate even more, they’ll begin to notice their vision is more distorted or dimmed, especially when they try to read. At its worst, the macula may become thinned, and this leads to atrophy, or tissue death. Blind spots appear in the vision and people can lose their central vision, altogether.

The other 10 percent of AMD is of the “wet” form, and this occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow from underneath the macula. This can be very serious, as the blood vessels can cause blood and fluids to leak all over the retina. People will have serious vision issues, like straight lines becoming wavy and the formation of blind spots, and then the vessels eventually scar, causing loss of central vision.

Treating Macular Degeneration

AMD is a scary disorder because it’s common, dangerous and doctors have yet to find a cure for it. Most people have dry AMD, so their vision deteriorates very slowly and they’ll never go blind from it, but it can still create problems in their daily lives.

Because of this, low-vision clinics can offer great assistance. There are also many tools one can use so they can still read, like bright reading lamps, magnifying glasses and large-print books. There’s even software available that can read emails and browse the internet for you so you don’t have to rely on your eyesight.

According to research, diet and nutrition could be important factors to maintaining eye health. That means getting plenty of Vitamins A, C and E in your meals, and you can find these nutrients in fruits and vegetables, like oranges, kiwis, carrots, tomatoes and green leafy vegetables. There’s also evidence that supplements of these nutrients could help, as well.

For people with wet form AMD, there are treatment options. The aim is stop those blood vessels from growing, which can be done with something called anti-VEGF medication. This treatment tries to block the chemical that facilitates more blood vessels to grow in the retina. Doctors administer the drug by injecting it into the eye once it has been properly anaesthetized, or numbed of any pain. The procedure has very little discomfort, and it’s been show to work effectively. Some people have even reported their vision improving from it. There are various types of anti-VEGF medications, like ranibizumab, aflibercept and pegaptanib, so if you do suffer from dry form macular degeneration, you should speak with your doctor about possibly using an anti-VEGF treatment.

There are also certain laser surgeries that can be done to try and help people with wet form macular degeneration. These procedures are designed to get rid of the blood vessels they have. For instance, one type of surgery, photodynamic therapy (PDT), uses a light-sensitive medicine called verteporfin that’s intravenously injected and then attaches to the abnormal blood vessels. With a laser light, the verteporfin is catalyzed and activates, destroying the abnormal blood vessels and protecting the macula tissue from further harm. While this surgery is effective, it’s only appropriate for certain cases of wet form macular degeneration, around a fifth of them, in fact. Laser photocoagulation is another kind of laser surgery. Only one in seven cases can do this surgery, though, because the abnormal blood vessels can’t be near the fovea or the procedure could cause permanent vision loss.

Macular degeneration is a serious condition and its frequency among older people is very significant. Even today, scientists are still looking for better treatments. If you start having vision problems, speak to your doctor. It’s best to be aware if you have this condition so that you can move forward and take care of your eye health.

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