Macular degeneration is a disease of the macula (the small area at the center of your retina, or back of the eye). The macula allows you to see fine details. Macular degeneration is the most common cause of severe vision loss in people over the age of 50.
Symptoms of macular degeneration may include:
- Blurred vision
- Dark or blank spot(s) in center of vision
- Straight lines look distorted or broken
Macular degeneration may develop as part of the natural aging process. Our bodies react constantly with the oxygen in our environment. Over time, our bodies produce free radicals which affect our cells and can cause damage. This process is called oxidative stress and is thought to play a major role in the development of macular degeneration.
Many people with macular degeneration develop yellow spots underthe retina called drusen. When drusen grow or increase in number, the risk for developing macular degeneration increases.
Risk factors for macular degeneration include:
- Being over 50 years old
- Family history of macular degeneration
- Cigarette smoking
- Ultraviolet light exposure
- Abnormal cholesterol levels
There are two main types of macular degeneration: dry (non-neovascular) and wet (neovascular).
DRY MACULAR DEGENERATION
90% of people with macular degeneration have the "dry" form. This condition is caused by oxidative stress and results in thinning of macular tissue. Vision loss usually occurs gradually over time. The only known treatment to prevent rapid progression is supplement therapy.
WET MACULAR DEGENERATION
The other 10% of people with macular degeneration have the "wet" form. This condition is caused by growth of abnormal blood vessels under the retina. These new blood vessels leak fluid or blood which blurs and distorts central vision. Vision loss is usually rapid and severe. If you experience any sudden changes in vision, contact our office immediately as this may be a sign of wet macular degeneration changes. There are several treatments available for wet macular degeneration. The most recent and effective treatment is to have a medication injected into the eye that stops blood vessel growth. These medications are known as Anti-VEGF drugs. Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) is a chemical that causes the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the retina. The three Anti-VEGF drugs that are used in treating wet macular degeneration are Lucentis (ranibizumab), Avastin (bevacizumab), and Eylea (aflibercept).