(Age-related) macular degeneration (AMD) is the major cause of blindness and visual impairment in older adults (>50 years) in the developed world. AMD is a medical condition that usually harms the center of the visual field (the macula) which is the most important for eyesight. It affects almost the 8% of population over 50 years old. Sun is a risk factor that is linked to AMD. As a matter of fact, AMD risk is doubled in situations of long-lasting UV exposure (mediocre or high) and it is 15 times more susceptible to Blue-Violet light (in situations of same concentration as UV) compared to other visible sun rays.
What is AMD?
Macula is in the center of the retina. The retina is the part of the eye where light beams are absorbed and images are able to appear. The macula is the most crucial part of the retina in order to maintain crisp vision.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES?
AMD is a multifactorial disease. More specifically, aging, family history, race (Caucasians), smoking, obesity are some of the factors that causes it however, Sun exposure id the most critical one.
Macular degeneration is a disease in which central visual impairment gradually takes place, without the patient having any other symptoms or pain. When AMD takes place it can make it difficult or impossible to read or recognize faces, although enough peripheral vision remains to allow other activities of daily life. Nevertheless, in late stages of the disease, AMD is considered to be a visual disability.
Two types of AMD exist. The “dry” form of advanced AMD which is the most common (90%) form of it and the “wet” form which is the harshest form of the disease and it is responsible for the 90% loss of a patient’s vision. In the “wet” form of AMD there is a possibility of new blood vessels to form a membrane behind the retina through blood and protein leakage, an incident that eventually cause irreversible damage to the eye and rapid vision loss.
- Wear sunglasses that offer UV protection.
- Proceed with preventative ophthalmic examinations, after 40 years of age.
- Visit your ophthalmologist if you notice changes in your vision.
- Unfortunately, in the case of “dry” AMD there is not treatment that we currently know of. The disease is progressing throughout the time but we cannot provide any pharmaceutical or surgical treatment that can treat effectively the case. Studies have shown that multi-vitamin supplements containing lutein and zeaxanthin are able to delay its progression.
- In the case of “wet” AMD and especially in the appearance of the neovascular membrane, injected drugs (in the crystalline of the eye) are provided. These drugs inhibit the development of the neovascular membrane and limits of even wipe out the swell in the area of the macula. The specific drug action not only stabilizes the development of the membrane but in some cases visual acuity is strengthened. The therapy continues with drugs to be injected every 4 -8 weeks until the permanent suspension of the disease.
- In certain, AMD can be confronted by surgery. The displacement of the macula (macular translocation) is an operation, which is performed when patients have completely lost their sight in both eyes from AMD. By displacing it, the macula is managed to be put to a new point in th eye with order to recover functional vision in one eye.
- In cases of advanced stages of AMD low-vision aids can also be used. These are special glasses / magnifiers, or closed circuit television and computers that help patients to see by magnifying objects, or enlarging the visual field.
- Low vision aids are a serious solution to a difficult problem.