The most common cause for loss of vision
Macular degeneration is a disease of the macula a small area in the retina at the back of the eye. The macula allows you to see fine details clearly and do things such as read and drive. When the macula does not work properly, your central vision can be blurry and have areas that are dark or distorted. Macular degeneration affects your ability to see near and far, and can make some activities — like threading a needle or reading — difficult or impossible.
Macular degeneration is the most common cause of severe vision loss in people older than 50. Although macular degeneration reduces vision in the central part of the retina, it usually does not affect the eye’s side (peripheral) vision. For example, you may be able to see the outline of a clock but not be able to tell what time it is.
Macular degeneration alone usually does not cause total blindness. Even in more advanced cases, people usually continue to have some useful vision and are often able to take care of themselves. In some cases, macular degeneration may not affect your vision very much. In other cases, however, vision loss may be more rapid and severe.
WET MACULAR DEGENERATION
Ten percent of people who have AMD have the “wet” form. Many of these people develop significant vision loss. Wet AMD results when abnormal blood vessels form underneath the retina. These new blood vessels leak fluid or blood and blur central vision. Vision loss may be rapid and severe. What are the symptoms of macular degeneration? Macular degeneration can cause different symptoms in different people.
Some people hardly notice AMD in its early stages. Sometimes only one eye loses vision while the other eye continues to see well for many years. But when both eyes are affected, you notice the loss of central vision quickly. Usually, you will notice vision loss when you find:
· words on a page look blurred;
· a dark or empty area appears in the centre of vision
· straight lines look distorted
How is macular degeneration diagnosed?
Many people do not realize that they have a macular problem until blurred vision becomes obvious. Your ophthalmologist can detect early stages of AMD during a medical eye examination.
This exam includes:
· a simple vision test in which you look at a chart that looks like graph paper (called an Amsler grid)
· an exam of your macula with special lenses;
· having special photographs taken of your eye with fluorescein angiography and
· optical coherence tomography (OCT).
These tests are used to find abnormal blood vessels, fluid or blood under the retina.
How is macular degeneration treated?
Antioxidant vitamins and zinc may reduce the impact of AMD in some people. A large scientific study found that people at risk for developing advanced stages of AMD lowered their risk by about 25 percent when treated with a high-dose combination of:
· vitamin C (500 mg);
· vitamin E (400 iu);
· 10 mg lutein
· 2 mg zeaxanthin
· zinc (25 mg), and g copper (2 mg).
· 1000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids (350 mg DHA and 650 mg EPA) (optional)
Another large study in women showed a benefit from taking folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12. And a large study evaluating the benefits of lutein and fish oil (omega-3) is ongoing. Among those who either have no AMD or very early AMD, the supplements do not appear to be beneficial.
Family members of patients with AMD should check with their doctor before taking these vitamins themselves. It is very important to remember that vitamin supplements are not a cure for AMD, nor will they give you back vision that you may have already lost from the disease. In certain cases, there may be some risks with taking supplements. However, specific amounts of these supplements do play a key role in helping some people at high risk for advanced AMD to maintain their vision.
Talk with your ophthalmologist to find out if you are at risk for developing advanced AMD, and to learn if supplements are recommended for you.