Macular degeneration doesn’t receive a lot of attention, but it should. This serious condition affects at least 10 million Americans, and is a leading cause of blindness for seniors 65 and older. Here, the experienced ophthalmologists of Austin Eye discuss ways to lower your risk for the disease, and review current and emerging treatment options.
Changes in Vision
The macula is the part of the retina that focuses images before they are transmitted along the optic nerve to the brain. When this region of the eye begins to deteriorate, a person may notice a sudden change in vision, including fuzziness, distortions, blind spots, blurring, reduced contrast and difficulty reading. He or she may struggle to recognize fine details, colors and even faces.
There is a genetic component to macular degeneration, but lifestyle also plays a large role. Obese and sedentary individuals are more likely to develop macular degeneration, as are persons with untreated high blood pressure. And smoking is a major risk factor.
At this time, there is no cure for the most common form of macular degeneration, but regular eye exams can help identify the disease early so that damage can be minimized. Diet is one treatment option that may help slow its progression. Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and zinc are believed to offer some protective benefits, and your ophthalmologist may prescribe vitamin supplement to magnify the impact of nutritional treatment.
Although so-called “wet” macular degeneration accounts for just 10 to 15 percent of all cases, research into treatment options for this variant has been promising in recent years. Wet macular degeneration can happen quickly, with rapid loss of vision. Abnormal blood vessels begin to grow under the retina and macula. Soon these small vessels bleed into surrounding structures, distorting the shape of the macula. The leakage can scar the retina and even kill the rods and cones that make eyesight possible.
VEGF injections are a relatively new treatment for wet macular degeneration. A chemical periodically injected directly into the eye works to suppress the growth of these rogue blood vessels. Laser photocoagulation is an emerging treatment that seals off these blood vessels using the targeted energy of a surgical laser. Results have been inconsistent to date, but laser photocoagulation could become a promising treatment option in the future.
If you would like to learn more about macular degeneration, we invite you to schedule a personal consultation with one of the board-certified ophthalmologists at Austin Eye. Contact us by calling our North office at (512) 250-2020 or our Central office at (512) 454-2020.