Macular degeneration is frequently abbreviated "AMD" which stands for age-related macular degeneration. In spite of this name, we can see early signs of this condition even in patients in their 40s. This condition refers to a "wearing out" of the pigment cells in the macula. The macula, in turn, refers to the central portion of the retina. When you look directly at an object, an image of that object forms on the macula. The retina acts like the film of the camera, taking the picture. The macula is the center of this film. If the macula is damaged or lost, the patient cannot see what they're looking directly at. Therefore, in extreme cases of this condition, the patient is left only with peripheral vision.
Fortunately, many cases of macular degeneration never approach this level of impairment. In general, macular degeneration can be divided into two types -- the dry type and the wet type.
In the dry type of macular degeneration, the pigment cells wear out as a result of the accumulation of toxins over the years. This forms a series of tiny blind spots within the retina. The patient does not perceive these blind spots as dark areas, but just as a generalized blur where things had formerly been clear. The blurring can be very mild, or more severe, as the condition progresses. Several studies have indicated that the use of certain vitamins may be of value in slowing down this condition. At Ophthalmology Associates, we can advise you on whether this therapy would be appropriate for you. However, we do not advise you to begin a large vitamin regimen on your own, without consultation, as certain vitamins can be harmful or counterproductive in certain patients.
The wet type of macular degeneration results from abnormal blood vessels forming in the areas where the pigment cells used to be. These blood vessels can leak or bleed into the retina, causing sudden distortion or loss of central vision. While many patients will have only the dry form of AMD, most cases of wet macular degeneration begin as the dry form. Probably they are just different stages of the same condition.
In recent years, many new treatments for wet macular degeneration have been developed. Because of the rapidly changing nature of treatments for this disease, in-office consultation is essential.