Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration affects cells in the macula, the part of the retina responsible for central vision.  Central vision is essential for most basic tasks like reading, driving, recognizing people, etc.  Although macular degeneration leaves peripheral vision un-impaired, it can be quite debilitating in its advanced state.

Macular degeneration exists in two forms, dry and wet.  Dry macular degeneration is the most common of these two forms;  develops gradually and leading to minor vision loss.  Dry macular degeneration occurs when yellow fatty particles called drusen accumulate in the retina underneath the macula.  This build-up results in thinning and drying-out of the macular cells.

Although less common, the majority of severe vision loss cases result from  wet macular degeneration.  Abnormal blood vessels form underneath the surface of the retina.  Leakage of blood and other fluids from these blood vessels permanently damage the outside cells (which detect incoming light).  As these cells are damaged, vision is lost.

The primary cause of macular degeneration remains unknown.  Macular degeneration typically occurs more frequently in patients over 60.  Research has shown there are many other factors such as family history, smoking, hypertension, obesity, and/or high cholesterol, high fat diet that may contribute towards the development of macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration symptoms may include:

  • Shadows, blurriness, or holes in the center of vision.
  • Straight lines appear wavy.
  • Trouble seeing details both up close and at a distance.
  • Difficulty telling colors apart, especially ones close in hue.
  • Vision can be slow to come back after bright light exposure.

Dry macular degeneration:

Although there is no treatment for this form of degeneration, if you are at high risk, it is important to schedule an appointment with the doctor at least once every two years.  A dietary supplement of antioxidants and zinc can sometimes help slow the development.

Wet macular degeneration:

 Although there is no cure for this form of degeneration, some treatments do exist which help combat the disease.  Early detection is always critical.

Treatments for wet macular degeneration:

  • Laser photocoagulation:  This treatment which seals abnormal blood vessels with a heated laser is only applicable to a small segment of cases where some vision is sacrificed to save any remaining vision.  The laser does leave a scar, creating a permanent blind spot in the patient's vision.
  • Photodynamic therapy:  Employs a light-activated drug and a “cold” laser.  The drug is injected intravenously.  The doctor then shines the laser on the affected area, which activates the drug in the targeted tissue and blocks the leaking blood vessels.  This procedure leaves no scar, and may be repeated several times as necessary.
  • Anti-angiogenesis drugs:  These inhibit proteins which contribute to abnormal blood vessel growth.  They are known as anti-VEGF (anti-vascular endothelial growth factor) drugs.  There are a variety of drugs that can be applicable for this purpose, some FDA approved, and some off-label (officially approved for a different application).
  • Other pharmaceutical treatments:  Steroid injections or angiostatic treatments, combat blood vessel growth.

If you are experiencing any symptoms of macular degeneration, we encourage you to contact us today to schedule a consultation.


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