Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in adults over the age of 65 in the United States. AMD occurs when either the “dry” or “wet” form of AMD affects your central vision, which is needed for everyday tasks such as reading and driving.
Dry AMD is the most common form of AMD. With dry AMD, small yellowish deposits grow under the macula in the central part of your retina. These deposits are called “drusen” and they cause the macula to thicken, which in turn affects your vision.
The “wet” form of AMD accounts for 10-15% of AMD cases. In wet AMD, blood vessels grow under the retina and leak fluid or blood. This form of AMD usually causes a rapid decline in vision, though not always.
If AMD is diagnosed while the disease is still in its early stages, you may be able to delay or prevent further AMD vision loss by using treatments that slow down the progression of AMD. AMD treatment options are available to help slow AMD’s progress and improve vision loss caused by AMD.
AMD will not cause total blindness; however, it can make everyday tasks such as watching TV, reading a book, or even recognizing someone’s face very difficult. AMD can cause blurriness and distortion in your central vision. What you will see is distorted; straight lines appear wavy, though objects off to the side may look normal. AMD will not affect your peripheral vision, which is the ability to see objects on the sides of your field of view. AMD is a slow and progressive disease, meaning that it worsens slowly over time. The rate of progression depends on which type of AMD someone has. AMD is a chronic disease, meaning it lasts a long time.
What can I do to prevent AMD?
Taking vitamins can also help reduce the risk of progression of AMD. AREDS, an over-the-counter vitamin, is recommended for those who are at risk of developing AMD. Talk with your doctor about adding these vitamins into your diet.
Treatment for “Wet” AMD
There are different types of AMD treatments, but injections directly into the eye are used most often. Depending on your overall health and other underlying conditions, AMD treatment options may include:
1. Laser photocoagulation
Laser photocoagulation uses a laser beam to make small burns on the retina. These burns are made in an area of abnormal blood vessels, which slows down AMD’s progression by blocking the growth of new blood vessels underneath the retina.
2. Anti-VEGF agents
Anti-VEGF agents (such as bevacizumab) block a protein in your body called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which causes the development and growth of abnormal blood vessels. AMD treatment with anti-VEGF agents may include frequent intravitreal injections, but the frequency and dosage will vary depending on your AMD type, AMD severity, and other medical conditions you may have. There are different types of AMD treatments, but injections directly into the eye are used most often.
Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory drugs that can be injected into the retina to help decrease swelling caused by AMD. These drugs include dexamethasone, triamcinolone acetonide, fluocinonide, and others. AMD treatment with corticosteroids may include frequent intravitreal injections in order to maintain the pressure in the eye.