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Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD)

Age macular degeneration affects about 1/3 of people 55-74 years of age and almost 40% over the age of 75 present with some form of AMD. The macula is affected is the central, most vital area of the retina responsible for central, sharp vision and color.

Risk factors for macular degeneration include age (especially over 50), family history, high blood pressure, obesity, excessive light exposure and even smoking. Having a lighter eye colour also entails a higher risk. As optometrists, we screen every adult for this condition and educate each patient on preventative measures to protect their eyes from macular degeneration.

Currently there has not been a cure for macular degeneration. Macular degeneration treatment options exist and can slow the progress of the disease or improve vision based on the type of macular degeneration being experienced. There are two main categories of ARMD: dry and wet.

Dry macular degeneration is the less severe form affecting 80% of people with AMD. Drusen are small white or yellow deposits which accumulate in the deepest layers of the retina and breaks down the normal functioning retina. As it builds up, there is further disruption at the retinal layers above and eventually it damages the photoreceptor layer responsible for images from a person’s central vision. Treatment actually begins with routine eye exams, especially after age 60. The goal here is to catch the development of ARMD early. If detected, you may be prescribed a specific mix of high-dose zinc and antioxidants that have shown an ability to slow the progression of the disease. There is also an Amsler grid that you can use at home that helps to regularly monitor your central vision and alert for any changes.

Wet macular degeneration is more severe and can cause rapid, permanent central vision loss in just a few weeks. It occurs when bleeding begins in the deepest layers of the retina from leakage of new abnormal blood vessels that grow spontaneously. Early detection is critical for overall vision and treatment can include a number of options; including laser surgery, light-activated dyes that are injected into the circulatory system, or drugs injected directly into the eye that inhibit the growth of abnormal blood vessels that cause the wet form of the disease. At this stage, once vision is lost, it is rarely restored.

To understand further about the risks and the limitations of all macular degeneration treatments, please discuss with your eye doctor.

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