Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness for patients over the age of 65. The macula is a small area in the back of the eye that allows you to see fine details and perform activities such as reading and driving. People who develop AMD develop a breakdown and deterioration of the macula. When the macula does not function properly it can cause blurriness, dark areas, and distortion in the central vision.
Many older people develop macular degeneration through part the natural aging process. Exactly why it develops is not known, and no treatment has been uniformly effective. There are two types of macular degeneration. Dry AMD or atrophic AMD which accounts for 90% of AMD is caused by the aging and thinning of the macular tissue. Wet AMD or exudative AMD accounts for about 10% of all macular degeneration and is caused by the development of abnormal blood vessels which leak fluid or blood into the layers of the retinal tissue. The vision loss from this can be rapid and severe.
Treatments for macular degeneration have been studied in recent years. A large scientific study found that people at risk for developing advanced stages of AMD lowered their risk by taking a vitamin with high doses of vitamin A (beta carotene), vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc. A second study later recommended a different formula for patients who are currently or have recently been tobacco smokers. This new formula replaces the beta carotene with lutein. Northwest Eye Center has Focus MaculaPro™ Vitamins available for purchase in the office. Focus MaculaPro™ was developed by AMD experts and is manufactured in an FDA-registered facility using only high quality ingredients.
For wet or exudative AMD treatments over the years have included laser treatments and treatments like photodynamic therapy which is a combination of a special drug and a laser treatment. The most current and effective treatments are anti-VEGF drugs. The Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor is a chemical in the body that causes the development of abnormal blood vessels. The anti-VEGF drugs block the trouble causing Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor, reducing the growth of abnormal blood vessels and slowing their leakage. These drugs such as Avastin can help preserve more sight overall though they are not cures that can restore vision to normal.
Dr. O’Rourke and Dr. Hathaway can diagnose even the earliest stages of AMD by performing a full dilated eye exam as well as using diagnostic equipment such as retinal imaging and OCT (ocular coherence tomography). Dr. Hathaway who is trained in the treatment of retinal diseases provides intravitreal anti-VEGF Avastin injections for the treatment of wet AMD here at Northwest Eye Center. For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of AMD schedule your comprehensive eye exam