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Macular Degeneration is an age related condition associated with damage to the macula, the area of the retina that is responsible for central vision. The degeneration is caused by years of accumulation of metabolic debris. Central vision is lost when the macula doesn’t function properly. Macular degeneration only affects central vision and not peripheral vision. For example, you might be able to see the outline of a clock but not be able to tell what time it is.
There are two types of macular degeneration: “dry” and “wet”. Dry macular degeneration is the most common form, and usually results in a mild to moderate, slowly progressive vision loss.
Some patients will convert from “dry” to “wet” form. This occurs when leakage of fluid or blood develops under the macula, and more rapid loss of vision occurs. Left untreated, the wet form will eventually result in complete loss of central vision.
Macular degeneration can be detected during a routine dilated eye exam. Annual screenings should be performed on anyone over 40 years of age.
Once the diagnosis had been made, a laser scan of the retina (OCT) should be performed to rule out wet macular degeneration. Our doctors at Northwest Eye Center recommend an OCT every 6 months in patients with dry macular degeneration to rule out the wet form. An early wet form may be found on the OCT before the patient has symptoms, and early diagnosis is the key to preventing loss of vision.
If the OCT indicates a suspicion of wet macular degeneration, a fluorescein angiogram is performed to confirm the diagnosis. This involves a fluorescent dye and a series of retinal photos to identify the size and location of the leakage in the macula.
At this time, the only treatment for the dry form is prevention.
Avastin injections are effective in most cases in decreasing the amount of leaking fluid, and prevent severe loss of vision. At Northwest Eye Center, Dr. Nolan Hathaway is experienced in Avastin injections. A series of injections, 4-6 weeks apart, is the usual protocol until the leakage has improved. However, the leakage may recur at any time- so close follow up is imperative to prevent loss of vision.
There are many exciting and promising new therapies under investigation, and hopefully in the future we will have more effective treatments for both dry and wet macular degeneration.
At Northwest Eye Center, our doctors can detect and treat macular degeneration. As always, early detection is the key to a better prognosis.