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Macular Degeneration & Other AMDs

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Across the United States, macular degeneration impacts over 10 million citizens and is the leading cause of vision loss, even more than glaucoma and cataracts combined. 

Fortunately, there are several treatments that can be utilized to slow the progression of the disease and prevent your patients from severe vision loss. Let's take a closer look at this condition as well as answers to some of the most frequently asked questions, such as "What is macular degeneration?". 

What Is Macular Degeneration?

Often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), macular degeneration is an incurable eye disease affecting the macula or central portion of the retina at the back of your eye. The retina focuses central vision in the eye and controls your ability to read, recognize faces, differentiate colors, drive a car, and see fine details. As you age, changes to the macula may result in loss of central vision. There are two primary types of AMD: dry AMD and wet AMD.

What Is Dry AMD?

Dry AMD, also called non-exudative AMD or non-neovascular AMD, is the most common form. Dry AMD affects approximately 85-90 percent of AMD cases. It's called “dry” because it doesn't involve the leakage or exuding of fluids from the blood vessels. 

What Is Wet AMD? 

Alternatively, wet AMD happens when new blood vessels grow behind the retina in the choroid layer. Because these new vessels are weaker, they will leak blood, lipids, and other fluids. When this happens, these fluids will get ooze into the retinal and macula layers, which can prompt the facilitation of scar tissue and cause the retina to stop working. 

In addition to dry and wet AMD, macular degeneration progresses in stages. 

What Are the Stages of Macular Degeneration?

As a progressive disease of the retina, macular degeneration can be categorized by one of three stages:

  1. Early AMD: Medium-sized yellow deposits called drusens are present beneath the retina. Vision loss is typically not noticeable at this time or during routine eye exams.

  2. Intermediate AMD: Some vision loss is present at this stage, but symptoms may still not be noticeable during routine eye exams.

  3. Late AMD: Vision loss is noticeable. This is usually when a positive AMD diagnosis is made.

What Are the Symptoms of Macular Degeneration?

Because early-stage AMD has no symptoms or signs of vision loss, it's imperative for your patients to have routine eye exams. To catch the condition in the earliest stage, you may detect several small drusen or few medium-sized drusen.

However, early AMD can only be detected by a physician through the recognition of early retinal changes. For most people, the symptoms of AMD do not begin to occur until the intermediate stage. Then, signs and symptoms may be noticeable in one or both eyes and may include:

  1. Visual field defects: The center of your patient’s visual field may become distorted, smudged, or lost. Straight lines may appear wavy or crooked. He/she/they may have difficulty with seeing the shapes of objects clearly, recognizing faces, reading, watching TV, or driving. Severe vision loss may cause them to see an empty or dark area in the center of their vision.

  2. Loss of clear color vision: Some people living with late-stage AMD have difficulty distinguishing between two similar shades of colors when placed side by side. Your patient may also experience contrast sensitivity, meaning difficulty seeing textures and subtle changes in the environment.

  3. Impaired depth perception: This can include a reduced ability to properly judge distance.

Your patient may also feel that they need brighter lighting for reading or it may become difficult for their eyes to adjust when they move from a well-lit to a dark room. AMD central vision loss can occur rapidly, within days or weeks.

What Are the Risk Factors for Macular Degeneration?

The specific cause of AMD remains largely unclear, but risk factors include: 

  • Age
  • Heredity
  • Environment
  • Lifestyle

As the name suggests, age remains the biggest risk factor of AMD. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), AMD is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over age 50. Other risk factors may include:

  • Poor nutrition
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • UV light exposure
  • Diabetes
  • Unchecked high blood pressure
  • Lack of exercise

Women and Caucasians are at a higher risk for the disease than other races. AMD is also linked to people who are farsighted or have light-colored irises (irides).

How Is Macular Degeneration Treated?

Unfortunately, there is currently no cure or specific treatment for dry AMD but there are things you can tell your patient to do that may help reduce the risk and slow its progression.

  • Nutrition: Experts recommend getting enough nutrients including lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamins C and E, zinc, and omega 3 found in fatty fishes or supplements.
  • Lifestyle changes: Quitting smoking, exercising, controlling high blood pressure and diabetes, and protecting eyes from UV rays may also help.
  • Low vision aids and rehabilitation: You may recommend devices that have special lenses or can enlarge the images of nearby objects.
  • Telescope implant: A tiny telescope can be implanted inside the eye to improve vision in individuals with substantial vision loss from AMD.

Meanwhile, wet AMD can be treated with eye injections of anti-VEGF medications if detected early. The medications help block the development of new blood vessels and leakage causing wet AMD. Another option is laser treatment, called photodynamic therapy (PDT).

Contact Us Today!

Optometric professionals play a critical role in diagnosing, treating, and preventing eye or vision problems. And for more than 100 years, eye care professionals have turned to Keeler for a range of state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment and solutions. We carry a vast range of different optometry and ophthalmic supplies as well as equipment, such as: 

In addition, we regularly partner with different general medical instrument manufacturers, high-tech ophthalmic solution providers, veterinary diagnostic specialists, and more to provide specialized OEM manufacturing

Learn more about the products we offer or visit Keeler Global for partnerships and other opportunities.

About the Author Eugene VanArsdale

Eugene is the Director of Marketing Communications at Keeler Instruments. He has been with Keeler since 1982 and is co-holder of two patents for the company. Eugene has a true passion for the eye care industry and has dedicated himself to understanding the ins and outs of the optometric and ophthalmic equipment market.