Age Related Macular Degeneration



What is Age Related Macular Degeneration?

As the name implies, Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is an eye disease that is primarily triggered by age. There are two types of ARMD, wet and dry. Either can affect one or both eyes. The dry form is more prevalent, occurring in 90% of the cases. It’s slow to develop and vision loss is gradual, although not necessarily severe. The wet form is much more damaging, causing rapid and severe vision loss.

Even though vision loss is not complete, it is significant enough for an individual to be considered legally blind and for quality of life to be severely affected.

Vision loss is not total because ARMD affects the central vision, not the peripheral vision. When the macula is damaged, a person cannot create a clearly detailed image. Since the macula is in the center of the retina, central vision is affected. The macula is a group of nerve cells that utilize light to create and send images to the retina.

Symptoms of ARMD

Those affected by ARMD will notice a spot in their vision that is clearly indistinguishable. For example, when looking directly at an image of a person, legs and head will be clearly visible, but the body itself, the part right in the center of vision, will appear to be covered with an area that appears either empty or dark. Besides blurred vision, straight lines may seem wavy and a person may not be able to recognize images that should be familiar.

Who is at risk?

Age is a primary risk factor of ARMD, with the majority of the cases developing in individuals aged 60 and over. However, hereditary and the environment can also trigger the onset of the dry form of this eye disease. Females develop ARMD more often than men.

Free radicals cause much of the cell damage that occurs inside the retina therefore cigarette smoking and hypertension increase the risks of developing ARMD. Those who do not eat a nutritionally-balanced diet may also be at risk as they are not providing the body with the antioxidant protection it needs to inhibit the damage caused by free radicals.

Early Detection/Treatment

It’s difficult to detect ARMD. The dry form is slow to develop, and generally develops only in one eye. The unaffected eye compensates for the damaged eye, so symptoms are not readily noticeable.

Yellow deposits called drusen on the retina can usually be observed during an eye exam. The eye chart and dilating the pupils are two methods of detection. When wet ARMD is suspected, the eye doctor will use an Amsler grid or fluorescein angiography.

Unfortunately, no treatment can restore this type of eye damage. Glasses will not help, but vision aids and counseling can help a person adjust to life with a reduced vision loss.

Laser surgery treatments and photodynamic therapy have had limited success on wet Age Related Macular Degeneration. Other treatment options such as medication and radiation are still being studied.

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Comments

  1. Hi Barry .. Thanks for sharing this story, and your site! I have added it to my blogroll. I couldn’t agree more about trying for a healthier lifestyle and regular eye exams. I know myself, that I am in front of this monitor screen all day and should be getting tested more frequently than I have been. // Take care.

  2. It is great to see that people are getting the word out on Macular Degeneration and the effects that this has on all aspects of life.

    The key is early detection and reducing the associated risks of contracting macular degeneration.

    This hit very close to home last year in April 2007 when my mom was diagnosed with this condition. Luckily, she was a candidate for avastin treatments here in Newfoundland, Canada, but these were not covered by our provincial healthcare system. Family and friends kicked in to save her vision!

    Treatments for macular degeneration, at least the wet form of macular degeneration exist now, including drugs such as lucentis, avastin and macugen.

    It is important to advocate a healthier lifestyle and regular eye exams to protect ourselves from this disease.

    Barry Wheeler
    www.amdsupport.ca

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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