Are you facing any of these eye problems?
- Blurred vision or blind spot
- Difficulty in recognizing faces
- Not able to adapt to low-lit areas and need more light while reading
- Colors do not seem as bright
- Getting glares
If yes, then you could be a victim of Age-related Macular Degeneration!
Wondering what is Age-related Macular Degeneration?
This is a disease associated primarily with aging that causes vision loss by affecting the center of the retina called the macula. The vision is predominantly affected due to accumulation of drusen (yellow deposits that are considered waste products) beneath the retina, in and around the macula.
The retina is like the film in the back of a camera and the macula is a small area near the centre of the retina that helps us in performing fine tasks.
Macular degeneration NEVER totally blinds a patient as the peripheral vision remains unaffected, but still the person’s inability to perform daily functions can bring frustration in their mind.
AMD is has its two subtypes based on the damage:
- Dry AMD, where, the drusens begin to accumulate in and around the macula and the cells of the macula just wear out. It affects 80-90% of cases.
- Wet AMD, that causes vision loss due to abnormal blood vessel growth, leading to blood and protein leakage below the macula. It affects about 10% of cases.
Is macular degeneration always caused by age?
Age-related macular degeneration is something all ages should know about. No doubt that AMD affects 1 in 10 people over the age of 50, and 1 in 3 over the age of 75, but, the risk may extend to those with:
- Family history of AMD: “Judi Dench, an Oscar winning actress was detected of AMD at 78 years of age. Since, Judi’s mom also had AMD, she cites a classic example of AMD due to age and genetics”.
- Active Smoking
- Lack of nutrition in their diet.
- Excessive exposure to ultraviolet light (sunlight).
- High blood pressure or high cholesterol.
How do I prevent myself from AMD, if I suspect myself to be at risk?
Many of us assume that our eyes would definitely worsen with age, but it may not be true with those who maintain healthy habits throughout their life. Taking few diligent steps may prevent or slow down the progression of such eye problems.
- Eat healthy: Dark, leafy green vegetable, fish and fish oil supplements, fruits and nuts. Limit your intake of refined carbohydrates.
- Add multivitamin/multimineral supplements to your diet, particularly anti-oxidants (e.g. Vitamin E, beta-carotene, Vitamin C) and minerals (zinc and copper)
- Change your lifestyle: Quit smoking, exercise regularly to manage your weight and cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Wear sunglasses to block Ultraviolet rays.
- Go for regular eye exams.
Our tendency of not visiting our doctor till we fall prey to a disease sometimes harms us to the extent that the disease cannot be managed well. Avoid that!
What will my eye exam include?
It may include:
- Vision testing.
- Dilated eye exam to check your retina and optic nerve.
- Amsler grid: It is a small paper chart that has crossed lines printed on it that you may use to find any early changes in your eyes.
- Fluorescein angiogram to see leaking blood vessels.
- Optical coherence tomography. It uses light waves and can achieve very high-resolution images of any tissues that can be penetrated by light—such as the eyes.
CAN MY MACULAR DEGENERATION BE CURED?
Though, there is no outright cure for AMD, but some treatments may delay its progression or even improve vision.
Dry AMD: No medical or surgical treatment is available for this condition. A combination of high dose of vitamins and minerals slow down its progression.
Wet AMD: Treatment of wet AMD may help in preventing further loss of vision:
- Anti-VEGF injections: Drugs like Lucentis and Avastin are administered by intraocular injection that blocks the vascular growth factors. They are effective in reversing some vision loss but, you may need multiple monthly injections.
- Photodynamic therapy: This technique involves laser treatment of select areas of the retina. The drug verteporfin is administered intravenously; light of a certain wavelength is then applied to the abnormal blood vessels which activates the verteporfin, thereby destroying the vessels.
- Laser Coagulation: An intense “hot” laser is aimed at the abnormal blood vessels in the eyes to destroy them. But since, this treatment is more likely to be used when blood vessel growth is limited to a compact area in the eye, it is the least common procedure used for the treatment of AMD.
Nobody can stop us growing older and so is true with our age related eye problems. We all reach an age where our sight starts to withdraw its clarity and vision, thereby cutting back our independence to do our daily cores on our own. But, does that mean that we live with a feeling of loss, low self-esteem and depression because of these constraints?
“Losing your sight is like losing your freedom of life but one should make all possible efforts to regain that freedom through various aids and treatments available and live without dependence”