Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition that affects the central area of retina known as the macula. The macula is the most sensitive part of the retina and is made up of millions of light-sensing cells that provide sharp, and detailed central vision. AMD is more common with advancing age and is the leading cause of vision loss for people over the age of 50 in the Western world.
There are two types of AMD referred to as ‘Dry’ and ‘Wet’ forms. Dry AMD is more common and tends to be slower in onset and progression. Patients may be asymptomatic in early stages, but as the disease progresses, vision becomes blurry or distorted making it more difficult to read or see detail. While there is no clinical treatment for dry AMD, studies have shown that the use of certain vitamins can help slow its progression. Patients with a known family history of AMD may benefit from vitamin therapy. Consult your doctor before beginning a vitamin regimen, especially if you smoke or take a blood thinner medication. Patients with dry AMD should monitor their vision daily and if a change is noted, call their ophthalmologist for an immediate evaluation as dry AMD can progress into the more serious form known as ‘Wet’ AMD.
Wet AMD is the term used to describe the more aggressive type of macular degeneration. It is referred to as ‘wet’ due to the development of abnormal blood vessels under the retina that have a propensity to bleed. This onset is usually noted by the patient as a sudden decline in vision, a central ‘gray spot’ in their vision, or increased distortion of central vision. Fortunately, recent developments in AMD treatment have provided retina specialists the ability to better control this disease. A new class of medication is now being used to treat wet macular degeneration. These drugs are based on discovery that Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) plays a significant role in the formation of abnormal blood vessels that damage the retina in wet macular degeneration.
The anti-VEGF drugs are injected directly into the vitreous, the gel inside the eye that overlies the retina. While it may seem intimidating to receive an injection into the eye, most patients find the experience of minimal discomfort. Once inside the eye, the medication diffuses throughout the retina. It binds strongly to the abnormal VEGF proteins, preventing the proteins from stimulating further unwanted blood vessel growth and leakage. Most patients gain significant vision with these injections.
In cases where Anti-VEGF medications are not sufficient for treatment of wet macular degeneration, a laser treatment known as Photo Dynamic Therapy or PDT is used. PDT employs the use of a photo-reactive drug called Visudyne™ which is injected into the bloodstream and collects in the area of abnormal retinal vessels. A special laser is then directed to the site of treatment that activates the drug causing the abnormal vessels to close.
Piedmont Eye Center’s experienced retinal specialists, Dr. Robert Vogel and Dr. Golnaz Javey, offer the very latest in AMD treatment in our state-of-the-art facility. Come see why Piedmont Eye Center is a leader in advanced AMD treatment.
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