Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a chronic retinal eye condition that leads to progressive central vision loss but does not affect peripheral side vision. It mostly affects people aged 50 and above and is the leading cause of blindness in Australia. There is no pain associated with the disease although its progressive nature can lead to legal blindness. (It does not cause total 'black' blindness)
Stages of AMD
Early stage of AMD involves waste products from the retina building up and creating yellow fatty deposits called drusen. During the early stages, symptoms usually are not noticed. As the disease worsens, vision symptoms such as difficulty when reading, distortion, problems distinguishing faces and dark spots or patches in central vision become apparent.
Late stage AMD is when loss of vision is involved, there are two types of late stage AMD; wet and dry
Wet macular degeneration occurs when new blood vessels grow underneath the retina. These blood vessels are fragile and therefore can leak, causing fluid and blood to bleed under the retina. This can lead to scarring and therefore, vision loss.
Dry macular degeneration is a slow progressing form of the disease and causes gradual loss of vision rather than a rapid loss. Patients with dry macular degeneration can develop the wet form, which is more aggressive with more rapid or sudden vision loss. It is very important that any visual changes are reported to your ophthalmologist immediately so that treatment can begin as soon as possible. Delay in treatment may result in a more permanent vision loss.
There is no cure for macular degeneration; however, there is some treatment available depending on what stage of AMD you have.
There is currently no treatment available for the dry form; however, there is research being conducted to find appropriate treatment.
Treatment for wet AMD includes:
Anti-VEGF injections: This treatment targets the protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) that is responsible for the growth of the new, fragile vessels that leak under the retina. This drug (anti-VEGF) is administered via injections into the eye; it usually begins with one injection a month for three months, then ongoing injections in intervals determined by your eye specialist. These intervals may change depending on your individual condition.
Laser photocoagulation: Another option that may be used, sometimes in conjunction with anti-VEGF injections, is laser photocoagulation. This treatment consists of a concentrated light beam that destroys the fragile blood vessels and the retina near them. As parts of the retina are also destroyed with this laser, it is used for areas further from the macular, not under central vision.
For more information on macular degeneration, visit the Macular Disease Foundation Australia.