Vision loss from macular degeneration increases as we age. This means that more and more people may lose vision as the population (baby boomers) get older due to ARMD (Age Related Macular Degeneration). There are lots of recommendations on the Internet that just don’t make sense. Here are a few practical recommendations and tips about ARMD, prevent vision loss and preserve your retina.
There are Two Types of ARMD
There are two classifications of macular degeneration, so-called “dry” and “wet.”. They have many similarities, yet differ, principally, in two ways. First, the “wet” ARMD is defined by the presence of leaky, abnormal blood vessels. The presence of “neovascularization” (aka choroidal neovascularization) causes a more rapid change, or decrease, in vision.
Most cases of macular degeneration affect both eyes and are of the “dry” type. The dry form changes vision loss much more slowly than the more aggressive “wet” form and accounts for about 90% of patients.
Both types can cause blurring of the central vision, formation of dark/grey areas in the vision and distortion. Neither affects the peripheral, or side, vision.
There is No Cure for Macular Degeneration
Unfortunately, despite what you read, there is no cure for either type of ARMD (Age Related Macular Degeneration). Intraocular injections are a treatment only for the “wet” form of the disease. It is only a treatment and not a cure.
At present, there is nothing to do for dry ARMD, although you will hear the contrary with regard to vitamins and other supplements.
Only one NIH study has confirmed evidence that vitamins have a role in macular degeneration. That role, is NOT curative, but may prevent patients with high and intermediate risk factors from experiencing severe vision loss from macular degeneration. The AREDS 1 study was completed over ten years ago. AREDS 2 is underway.
There is no other indication, or reason, to take vitamins or other supplements.
Most ARMD is NOT Inherited
The term macular degeneration is probably a huge “waste basket” of terms, that is, we will probably learn that ARMD is a collection of different diseases that have similar characteristics and behaviors. While there are cases of disease that have been found to run in certain areas or families, for the most part, macular degeneration is not passed on.
Regular Examination Prevents Vision Loss
The best way to look for macular degeneration is to have your pupils dilated by your doctor. This will allow direct examination of the retina. He or she does not have to be a retina specialist, but you should be referred to one if your exam raises any concerns or suspicions.
A retina specialist, with the aid of a fluorescein angiogram and OCT, may be able to confirm the diagnosis. Remember, there can be several causes for whatever symptoms that concern you.
Monitor Your Own Vision
Self-monitoring of your vision is probably the best thing you can do for yourself. Once diagnosed with ARMD, daily use of an Amsler grid or similar device, can help identify any changes that may need to be treated early.
The idea of self-monitoring is to catch any sudden, sustained, change in vision, including distortion, as early as possible. You should alert your doctor of any changes.
What Does This Mean? There is a lot of “misinformation” regarding macular degeneration. There are many ways that patients can help themselves including early examination and understanding that there are few, if any, supplements to help with the disease.
Don’t get hung up on seeing a retina specialist off the bat. If there are concerns regarding your vision, see your eye doctor for a complete examination of your retina for macular degeneration. There are many reasons you may have changes in your vision.
Just because a family member does have macular degeneration does not mean that you, too, have the disease. Get examined and have your eye doctor, or retina specialist, confirm the presence, or absence, of the disease.
Lastly, sustained changes in your vision usually don’t go away by themselves. Get tested!