All You Need to Know About Macular Degeneration

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Vision is often considered to be the most valuable of the senses. The eyes perform the vital function of sight by a complicated physical and chemical process which is prone to disease especially with advancing age.  .

Due to modern medicine and advances in lifestyle, we are all living longer and age is a key factor in decreased eye function.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is one of the most common causes of vision loss in people aged 60 and older. AMD affects the macula, a small, yet extremely important area in the retina responsible for seeing fine details clearly. When the macula is damaged, the centre of our field of vision may appear blurred, distorted, or dark which may interfere with everyday tasks such as reading, writing, driving or recognising faces.

AMD is classified as dry AMD or wet AMD. In dry AMD, due to wear and tear, there is slow damage to the normal tissue constituting the macula which then slowly wears out leaving a area of loss of visual function. All patients start out with dry AMD and 10% will progress to have wet AMD.In wet AMD, networks of weak new vessels grow under the retina, with a high risk of rupture or leak of blood into the retina at any time, leading to sudden vision loss. Both conditions can be sight threatening in the late stages.

“Age-Related Macular Degeneration progression can vary. However when it is in the initial stages, vision-related symptoms may develop slowly. However, there are instances in which the progression of the disease is rapid, and loss of vision may be sudden. A good varied diet with lots of coloured vegetables and fruit as well as oily fish may slow down the progress of this disease. Smoking, including shisha has a very large impact in making the disease progress quicker.

AMD examinations always include measurement of visual acuity, visualization of the retina with a slit lamp and an OCT scan. Other investigations are sometimes required. Wet AMD is treated with intravitreal injections of anti-VEGF drugs. When anti-VEGF  drugs are injected into the eye on a regular basis, they can stop the abnormal blood vessels growing, leaking and bleeding under the retina. These injections have proven to be essential in stabilizing and even improving signt in patients with wet AMD and everyday thousands of these injections are safely admistered all over the world. In certain cases of wet AMD, a laser procedure called photodynamic therapy, can also be helpful.

There is currently no cure for dry AMD, but dietery and lifestyle changes can slow down the disease progression.  In those patients who do unfortunately experience vision loss   low vision aids can improve the central vision .