AMD affects the macula of the eye. The macula is the small area near the center of the retina which has millions of light-sensing cells that provide sharp, central vision. Central vision allows you to see objects that are straight ahead. AMD is due to an accumulation of natural metabolic by-products produced by your body that are deposited under the retina in the macula. This causes blurry or distorted images and, eventually, blank spots in your visual field.
AMD is a common condition and the leading cause of vision loss in individuals over 50, but AMD does not result in complete blindness since the peripheral vision remains intact. But without central vision, you’re unable to see faces, words on a page, drive, watch television, or perform many of the routine tasks of life.
There are two forms of macular degeneration: dry and wet. The dry form of AMD is more common and leads to a slow decline in vision over years as the light-sensitive cells and supporting tissue in the macula gradually deteriorate and cause vision loss.
Wet AMD occurs when fragile new blood vessels grow underneath the retina (see picture). These blood vessels may leak fluid and blood that causes swelling and damage to the macula. Unlike the gradual changes associated with dry AMD, this form often causes rapid and severe changes in the macula with sudden vision loss.
Dr. Pallan designs treatment plans based on the form of AMD you have and the severity of the macular changes. Clinical trials show that certain vitamins may slow the progression of AMD, but it’s not enough to just start taking higher doses of a multivitamin.
The vitamins used to treat AMD are balanced carefully and specifically designed to target AMD. Dr. Pallan recommends her patients use the AREDS 2 formula, which are available at pharmacies without a prescription. The wet type of AMD often is treated with ocular injections of Avastin® or Lucentis® to eradicate the new vessels.
Early detection of AMD offers the best potential for successful treatment. Symptoms are often absent in the early stages of AMD but Dr. Pallan can spot macular changes in a comprehensive dilated eye exam and begin care long before degeneration affects your vision. Depending on your age and other risk factors, such as a family history of AMD, she may recommend you have a complete eye exam every year.