Macular degeneration, often referred to as age-related macular degeneration, is a condition that affects sharp, central vision causing difficulty seeing finer detail. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is associated with ageing, and for some it develops slowly with people noticing little change in their vision while for others it may progress more rapidly, leading to substantial vision loss in both eyes.
As the name suggests, age-related macular degeneration is more common in adults over the age of 60. The cause of macular degeneration is believed to be a result of various environmental and genetic factors and the natural ageing of the eye. There are two forms of macular degeneration, wet and dry. While both forms affect central vision, the dry type is caused by the deterioration of the light-sensitive cells in the macula while the wet version involves the development of abnormal blood vessels under the macula. In general, the dry type of macular degeneration develops more gradually in stages while the wet version occurs quickly without stages.
While there is no cure for macular degeneration, treatment can aid in slowing down the progression and prevent severe vision loss. For the dry type of macular degeneration, treatment is aimed at delaying the progression of the vision loss and preventing intermediate AMD from progressing to the advanced stage. This is usually done with a specific high-dose vitamin supplementation of antioxidants and zinc.
For the wet type, anti-VEGF injections are injected into the eye to stop leakage of fluid and blood from the abnormal new blood vessels behind the retina and help to treat any swelling and bleeding in the macula. These medications are highly effective at treating macular degeneration and help slow down vision loss. Many patients will re-gain vision after the injections. Laser eye surgery may be an option for specific candidates. This involves a high energy beam of light being directed at the leaky blood vessels close to the macular to destroy them. For those not a candidate for laser surgery, photodynamic therapy is another option. By injecting a specific solution into the bloodstream, a light can be used to activate the drug in the abnormal blood vessels of the macula, destroying them.