Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration affects your central vision, that area of the eye involved in reading, driving and face recognition. It’s caused by deterioration of tissue in the macula (MAK-u-la). The macula is in the center of your retina, a layer of tissue on the inside back wall of your eyeball.
There are two types of macular degeneration:
- Dry (the most common) macular degeneration - eye tissue deteriorates with no bleeding
- Wet macular degeneration - new blood vessels grow and leak fluid underneath the macula
The disease is complex with environmental, demographic and hereditary risk factors. Age (over 50), diet, and family history are key factors. Smoking is a significant risk factor. Eating leafy green vegetables and fish lowers your incidence for the more advanced stages of the disease.
Symptoms may be non-existent or may include impaired reading and driving vision, blind spots, and distortion. The condition is detectable in routine eye exams. The Scott & White Eye Institute’s team of optometrists and ophthalmologists refer patients to the Institute’s eye experts, such as macular degeneration specialist Dr. Robert Rosa. The Eye Institute offers state-of-the-art evaluation and care based on ongoing local and national research studies and trials.
“For early dry macular degeneration, vitamins can help—along with regular eye exams. In the wet form of the disease, surgery is usually required,” says Dr. Rosa. “In one treatment, medicine is injected into the eye to stop abnormal blood vessels from growing and leaking. This is the standard treatment today for the wet type. Another is cold laser treatment. Intravenous medicine is injected that concentrates in the abnormal blood vessels under the retina. A cold laser light activates the medication, causing clots to form in the abnormal blood vessels. In many cases, the treatments used today can stabilize the wet type and even improve vision.”
After the eye injections, patients use antibiotic drops to avoid an infection. Post-surgery care after the cold laser includes staying out of the sun and wearing special sunglasses for 5 days. Patients are followed up about every four to six weeks until the vision stabilizes and the leakage stops.
Have your eyes checked by an optometrist or ophthalmologist approximately every two years and more often as you age. An annual eye exam after age 50 is recommended.
“One of the things we deliver at Scott & White Eye Institute is compassionate care,” states Dr. Rosa. “We offer the most advanced care in terms of technology and treatments available. Part of that comes from our working research to help us offer patients the best and most recent medical advancements.”
"Besides clinical research in the Scott & White Eye Institute, clinical trials are now under way for new treatments for both dry and wet macular degeneration," says Dr. Rosa. “These are multicenter trials. We are involved in one study center among several, including Johns Hopkins, the Harvard Medical School and the University of Miami. One initiative sponsored by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health, called the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2, comprises a five-year evaluation of vitamin supplements for age-related macular degeneration.”
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