Over 10 million individuals in the United States alone are affected by age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The leading cause of visual loss in elderly persons is this disorder. The less severe version of the condition, dry AMD is far more prevalent than wet AMD.
AMD cannot presently be cured by a single therapy. However, modifying your diet and taking better care of yourself can help lower your risk or lessen the effects of both wet and dry AMD.
Two types of macular degeneration and their severity
There are typically two ways that macular degeneration might manifest: dry (atrophic) or wet (exudative). Wet macular degeneration and dry macular degeneration differ in severity. The most prevalent and least dangerous kind of macular degeneration is dry macular degeneration. The dry type of macular degeneration affects about 85–90% of people. Most people just lose a little bit of their vision and may acquire many big, soft drusen in their retinas. If a specialist is not consulted, the dry type might deteriorate over time and cause central vision loss.
Dry macular degeneration
As mentioned above, the dry form of AMD accounts for between 85 and 90% of occurrences. Compared to wet AMD, dry AMD often has less impact on vision and does not include the development of aberrant blood vessels.
Drusen, which are yellow deposits, are often an indication of dry AMD. Drusen are lipids and waste materials left behind during retinal cell deposition. The retina’s drusen may develop and proliferate, decreasing the macula’s capacity to produce a visual signal.
Dry AMD patients may have vision issues, such as a dark or fuzzy area in their center vision. However, the signs and symptoms of dry AMD are often milder than those of wet AMD.
About 10% of patients with dry AMD may experience the onset of wet AMD. Anyone who is exhibiting any AMD symptoms should consult a physician as soon as feasible. Early management of the illness can help prevent severe visual loss.
Is it possible to cure dry macular degeneration?
Currently, there is no known cure for dry macular degeneration. However, possible therapies are presently being tested in clinical studies. Recent advances in the treatment of dry macular degeneration include stem cell therapy, an injection of the medication Apl-2, the antibiotic Oracea, and the anti-inflammatory medicine Metformin. Most of these prospective medicines are still in the second or third stages of development, so they could not be accessible for several more years.
Wet macular degeneration: the worst form
Exudative AMD is another name for wet AMD. This kind of AMD is diagnosed by doctors less commonly than dry AMD. It makes up between 10% and 15% of all AMD cases.
Atypical blood vessels develop around and in the macula and retina in wet AMD. These vessels may potentially result in scarring and can leak proteins or lipids.
The majority of people with wet AMD will lose significant amounts of their vision permanently without treatment. Treatment can lessen the severity of visual loss, but it cannot always completely stop it.
Macular Degeneration Symptoms
You might not initially exhibit any observable symptoms of macular degeneration. It might not be discovered until both eyes are affected or it grows worse.
The three AMD stages
Three separate stages of age-related macular degeneration are as follows:
- Early AMD: People do not lose their eyesight during the early stages of the illness. However, a thorough eye exam may be able to identify the signs. Under the retina, the ophthalmologist could see yellow deposits (Drusen). Early diagnosis is crucial so that therapies that can stop the disease’s development can start.
- AMD in its intermediate stage may cause some vision loss, but not enough to worry the patient. A thorough eye exam can identify retinal damage.
- Late-stage AMD: People start losing their central vision in the late stages of the illness.
Macular degeneration symptoms might include:
- Reduced visual quality or clarity. You can have fuzzy vision, making it challenging to read small text or operate a vehicle.
- In the middle of your field of view, there are several dark, fuzzy spots.
- Occasionally, color perception might be altered or worse.
- Visit a doctor of optometry as soon as you can if you experience any of these signs.
Macular Degeneration Causes and Risk Factors
In elderly persons, age-related macular degeneration is increasingly prevalent. It is the main factor in significant vision loss in older adults.
Your genes might have a role in macular degeneration. If you have a family history of it, your risk may be increased.
Other factors that could increase your chances of developing it include:
- Having excessive cholesterol or blood pressure
- Consume a lot of saturated fat
- Having light skin
- Being a woman
To accurately diagnose AMD, medical professionals need to see inside the eye. A doctor can identify whether the AMD is wet or dry after doing a comprehensive examination.
The cell layer beneath the retina will start to thin or change in those with dry AMD. They could potentially have retinal degeneration in addition to having drusen deposits in their eyes.
There may be waste deposits and fluid accumulation around the macula in those with wet AMD. Bleeding under the macula in some of these people may cause a gray or green discoloration. And last, there can be signs of bleeding inside the macula or close by.
Your eye doctor will probably conduct an Amsler grid test to identify AMD. A grid of straight lines is examined throughout this examination. The person may be displaying early AMD symptoms if any of these lines seem bent or distorted.
Fundus fluorescein angiography is a different frequently used diagnostic procedure (FFA). FFA entails injecting a dye that enters the eye’s blood vessels. Ionizing radiation is not used in this test.
The use of this dye can assist medical professionals in identifying blood vessel leaks in the eye. If so, wet AMD is definitely present.
People should speak with a doctor if they observe any changes in their vision. For both wet and dry AMD to be adequately treated, an early AMD diagnosis is essential.
What Macular Degeneration Treatment Options Exist?
Macular degeneration is incurable. Treatment may prevent you from losing too much eyesight or at least slow it down.
Dry macular degeneration treatments
Dry AMD is currently not treatable with medications or surgical methods. Your eye doctor may advise you to:
Make dietary changes. They could advise you to eat salmon, dark leafy greens, yellow fruits and vegetables, and other eye-friendly foods as part of a balanced diet high in antioxidants.
Take supplements. A specific mix of vitamins and minerals may protect the eyes in certain patients with intermediate or late-stage AMD, according to the results of significant research by the National Eye Institute called AREDS (Age-Related Eye Disease Study). The supplements could prevent intermediate AMD from progressing to advanced stages and prolong vision for some people. After researchers modified the formula, they named it AREDS2.
Your doctor could advise taking AREDS2 supplements if your eyes have a lot of drusen. The supplements may help reduce your risk of developing wet AMD and vision loss in your other eye if you’ve already lost vision in one eye.
Without a prescription, AREDS2 supplements are available over the counter. Combining the following:
- C vitamin (ascorbic acid)
- lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc, and vitamin E (as zinc oxide)
- Copper (as cupric oxide) (as cupric oxide)
However, not everyone with dry AMD benefits from these supplements. See whether they are a good fit for you by asking your eye doctor. Ask them to suggest a brand if they give you the all-clear. Prior to beginning treatment, be sure to ask your doctor to go over all the potential advantages and disadvantages. They could also be a component of certain patients’ wet AMD treatments.
Low-vision aids. These tools use unique lenses or electronics to enlarge photos of objects. They aid those who have wet or dry macular degeneration and visual loss in making the most of their remaining vision.
Wet macular degeneration treatments
Your therapy choices if you have wet AMD might be as follows:
Anti-angiogenic medications (anti-VEGF). These drugs, including aflibercept (Eylea), bevacizumab (Avastin), faricimab-svoa (Vabysmo), pegaptanib (Macugen), and ranibizumab (Lucentis), prevent blood vessels from growing and leaking from existing ones in your eye, which causes wet macular degeneration. These medications helped many patients regain a part of their lost vision. It’s possible that you will require this therapy more than once.
Laser treatment. An intense laser beam can eliminate the irregular blood vessels that are forming in your eye.
Treatment using photodynamic lasers. Verteporfin (Visudyne), a light-sensitive medication, is injected into your veins by your doctor, where it spreads into the abnormal blood vessels. The drug is then activated by your doctor using a laser to close off the irregular blood vessels.
New AMD treatments
Age-related macular degeneration is a condition that researchers are also researching novel, albeit unproven, therapies. They consist of:
A submacular operation. This eliminates blood or aberrant blood vessels. Retinal translocation. This eliminates the aberrant blood vessels behind your macula, where a laser beam cannot be used safely by your doctor. The center of your macula is rotated in this treatment to a healthy region of your retina, away from the aberrant blood vessels. By doing this, you avoid developing scar tissue and further retinal damage. The problematic blood vessels are then treated with a laser by your doctor.
All types of AMD are caused by the destruction of the cells under the retina. Therefore, any methods that might shield the eyes from this kind of harm can help lower a person’s chance of acquiring AMD.
Smoking is one of the major risk factors for AMD, thus avoiding smoking or quitting can help prevent AMD.
Regular exercise can also lower the risk of AMD. People can reduce their blood pressure and cholesterol by leading a healthy lifestyle, which lowers their risk of AMD.
Wearing good sunglasses that block UV radiation and also glasses that block blue light when using LCD screens will help prevent AMD.
If family members have macular degeneration there’s a good chance that you may have the genes responsible for it also. Having a genetic test to determine your risk may be beneficial so that you can take extra precautions.
Wet macular degeneration is the worst form of AMD compared to its dry counterpart. Both forms of the disease can cause significant vision loss and should be taken very seriously. Patients who have been diagnosed with either form of the disease should take every precaution to reduce the risk of progression of the disease. Family members of those who have AMD should also make lifestyle changes to minimize their risk of developing the condition also. Annual eye exams for those over 50 are advised and for those who are at risk.
Is wet or dry macular degeneration preferable?
Which type of macular degeneration is worse, dry or wet? The most common cause of loss of central vision that is permanent is wet macular degeneration, which is more dangerous. Even though the dry kind is less dangerous, if it is not constantly watched by a doctor, it can progress to the wet form.
How frequently does wet macular degeneration develop from dry macular degeneration?
Fortunately, wet macular degeneration affects about 10-15% of people with dry macular degeneration. The central vision loss associated with wet AMD is more sudden and is brought on by aberrant blood vessels that bleed or leak fluid.
Wet or dry macular degeneration occurs first?
One of the two kinds of age-related macular degeneration is wet macular degeneration. Dry macular degeneration, the opposite form, is more prevalent and less serious. The dry type always comes before the wet kind.