In an earlier post here on the blog, we shared the basics of what everyone should know about age-related macular degeneration (AMD or ARMD). That article introduced the signs and symptoms of macular degeneration, as well as all the ways your eye doctor can test for and treat this serious eye disease. (If you’re a subscriber to our Campus Eye Center newsletters, you may also recall that we highlighted AMD in our February 2020 issue to mark age-related macular degeneration awareness month, too.)
It’s true that macular degeneration usually occurs in mature adults as a consequence of our eyes’ natural aging process. And this means macular degeneration is generally discussed with the qualifier “age-related.” For the purposes of today’s article, we will answer some of the most common questions patients have about macular degeneration from the standpoint of it being age-related, as well. Read on to learn more.
What is Macular Degeneration?
Recapping the definition we outlined in our earlier blog post about AMD, macular degeneration is what eye care professionals call the deterioration of the macula, a small area within the retina that controls your central vision. When macular degeneration begins to occur, you may notice blurry vision, or you may not have any symptoms.
There are two different types of AMD—”dry”/non-neovascular and “wet”/neovascular macular degeneration. The dry form of the disease is much more common, making up about 80% of AMD cases. However, this type of AMD tends not to announce itself with noticeable symptoms until it has already been active and progressing for some time, which makes testing critical for early detection.
Other symptoms of macular degeneration include:
- straight lines of text on a page appearing wavy
- loss of vision in certain parts of the eye (though not peripheral vision, as with glaucoma)
- difficulty driving at night due problems seeing in the dark
Numerous clinical studies have shown that dark adaptation—your recovery of sight when going from daylight to darkness—is dramatically impaired from the earliest stages of AMD. This means that utilizing new testing resources to check for dark adaptation impairment can help determine whether you have AMD before more obvious vision changes start.
Is Macular Degeneration Always Age-Related?
In short, no. However, the vast majority of macular degeneration cases occur in people over age 50. Macular degeneration coincides with the natural aging of the eyes in a wide range of individuals.
While macular degeneration can occur in people under age 50 who have other risk factors or diseases that cause problems with the eyes, everyone’s risk begins to increase after their 50th birthday. If you are Caucasian, female, overweight/obese, a smoker (now or in the past), and/or you eat a diet high in saturated fats, your risk for developing AMD could be even higher.
Additionally, research suggests there is a genetic component to being at greater risk for developing macular degeneration. Luckily, advanced medical studies are ongoing to identify the genes that may cause AMD, as well as to find treatments for the disease, which today affects about 9 million people.
How is Macular Degeneration Diagnosed?
When you reach age 50, eye health professionals strongly suggest you begin testing for AMD during your annual routine eye exams, even if you have no symptoms of the disease. Early detection is key to slowing the progression of macular degeneration and helping you keep your vision over time.
Here at Campus Eye Center, we are one of the few eye care practices in the region to provide Maculogix’s AdaptDx screening, an advanced dark adaptation test for AMD, which takes less than 10 minutes to complete. The AdaptDx can present us with information for earlier detection of macular damage and allow for prompt intervention.
Will Macular Degeneration Affect Both Eyes?
Medical research, as well as our experience here at Campus Eye Center in helping patients manage AMD, shows that macular degeneration typically affects both eyes over time. With dry form AMD—the most common type—the disease may begin in one eye first, but then eventually appears in the other eye, too.
As we’ve stressed, early detection through annual testing after age 50 can help keep AMD from progressing quickly and causing substantial vision loss in both eyes.
Is Macular Degeneration Curable?
As noted above, most macular degeneration cases involve the dry form of the disease, which unfortunately has no cure today. Additionally, no FDA-approved treatment for dry AMD currently exists. The approach your eye doctor will take to treating your dry form AMD will center on slowing disease progression and improving symptoms. This can be done through nutritional approaches and lifestyle changes, which may include adding certain science-based dietary supplements to your daily eating plan.
With wet macular degeneration, which is a much more severe form of the disease, ophthalmologists have a range of treatment options available that address its underlying causes. Because wet form AMD is caused by structural problems in the eyes that lead to macular scarring, eye doctors can treat those problems with options like surgical laser therapy, periodic therapeutic chemical injections into the eyes, and oral medications.
In the end, macular degeneration is not curable today. However, it is certainly manageable under a skilled eye doctor’s care.
Trust Campus Eye Center for AMD Diagnosis and Management
It’s a fact. Without proper testing and treatment, you risk completely losing your vision from macular degeneration, especially after age 50.
Scheduling a screening to check for AMD is easy at Campus Eye Center! Our experienced doctors use the most efficient technology available—the AdaptDx from Maculogix. It only takes a few minutes to protect your vision from AMD. Contact us today and schedule your AMD screening test: (717) 544-3900.