Age-related macular degeneration damages the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina which controls central vision. The macula is made of millions of photoreceptor cells, making it the most sensitive part of the retina. When the macula is damaged, central vision may appear dark, blurred or distorted. AMD is one of the leading causes of severe vision loss in the world among individuals over the age of 50.
AMD is a Worldwide Problem
One of the greatest challenges of AMD is that it is a multifactorial, progressive disease with no cure. There are two distinct types of AMD, wet AMD and dry AMD, and they behave differently. Currently, there are no tests that can identify risk or severity of AMD.
Available Treatments for Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Because there is no cure for AMD, the goal is to delay progression of the disease. In some cases of dry AMD, this can be accomplished with over-the-counter multi-vitamins that help protect the eyes from oxidative stress. Patients with wet AMD can benefit from eye injections that block the growth of new blood vessels in the eye. However, neither of these treatments restores vision.
Future of AMD Treatments
Clinical trials for AMD are large, lengthy and expensive, but researchers are committed to learning more about how and why AMD develops. A study was recently published online in Ophthalmology that suggests small particles in the blood could indicate the presence of AMD. This is particularly exciting because AMD can go undiagnosed for many years. The researchers were hopeful that blood profiles could help detect AMD earlier, thus preventing vision loss.
The Best Way to Preserve Your Vision
Yearly eye exams are the most effective way to detect AMD and preserve your eyesight. At your eye exam, your ophthalmologist will evaluate your vision for:
- Eye diseases such as AMD, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy
- Refractive errors like nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism
- Focusing problems including presbyopia
- Other vision problems such as strabismus, amblyopia or binocular vision
Eye exams can also offer a window into your overall health and detect chronic conditions like hypertension or high cholesterol. If it has been over a year since you have had a full eye exam with dilation, contact your ophthalmologist to set up an appointment.