Macular degeneration is a disorder of the retina, the light-sensitive inner lining of the back of the eye. The macula is a small, central portion of the retina which is necessary for sharp, “straight ahead” vision needed for reading, driving a car or recognizing faces.
Macular degeneration is diagnosed as either dry (non-neovascular) or wet (neovascular).
Patient with wet macular degeneration develop new blood vessels under the retina. This causes hemorrhage, swelling, and scar tissue but it can be treated with laser in some cases.
Dry macular degeneration, although more common, typically results in a less severe, more gradual loss of vision.
Signs and Symptoms
1 Loss of central vision. This may be gradual for those with the dry type. Patients with the wet type may experience a sudden decrease of the central vision.
2 Difficulty reading or performing tasks that require the ability to see detail
3 Distorted vision (Straight lines such as a doorway or the edge of a window may appear wavy or bent.)
There is no proven medical therapy for dry macular degeneration. In selected cases of wet macular degeneration, laser photocoagulation is effective for sealing leaking or bleeding vessels. Unfortunately, laser photocoagulation usually does not restore lost vision, but it may prevent further loss.
Recently, photodynamic therapy has proven to be effective in stopping abnormal blood vessel growth in some patients with wet AMD. This new type of laser treatment is far less damaging than laser photocoagulation and is the treatment of choice in many cases.
Early diagnosis is critical for successful treatment of wet macular degeneration. Patients can help the doctor detect early changes by monitoring vision at home with an Amsler grid.
Several recent studies have indicated a strong link between nutrition and the development of macular degeneration. It has been scientifically demonstrated that people with diets high in fruits and vegetables (especially leafy green vegetables) have a lower incidence of macular degeneration. More studies are needed to determine if nutritional supplements can prevent progression in patients with existing disease.