Imagine waking up one day and finding the world around you blurred and distorted. This is a reality for almost 20 million adults in the US living with wet macular degeneration – a chronic eye disorder that can lead to severe vision loss, particularly in people who are 60 and older if left untreated.
Here’s a brief introduction to wet macular degeneration, its causes, symptoms, and diagnosis.
What is Wet Macular Degeneration?
Wet macular degeneration is an age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affecting the macula, the central part of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision needed for activities like reading, driving, and recognizing faces.
In wet macular degeneration, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and leak blood or fluid, damaging the macula and distorting or destroying central vision. Vision loss from wet macular degeneration is usually faster and more noticeable than dry macular degeneration.
Causes and Risk Factors
While the exact cause of wet macular degeneration is unknown, several risk factors contribute to its development. These include:
- Age: Individuals over the age of 60 are at a higher risk.
- Family history: Genetics plays a significant role in the likelihood of developing AMD.
- Smoking: This habit doubles the risk of age-related wet macular degeneration.
- Cardiovascular disease: Conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels may increase the risk.
- Obesity: Obesity increases the chance of progression of early or intermediate macular degeneration to more severe macular degeneration.
- Race: White people are more likely to develop macular degeneration than others.
Non-age-related wet macular degeneration may be associated with head injuries, diabetes, infection, or a diet lacking essential nutrients.
Symptoms of Wet Macular Degeneration
The symptoms of wet macular degeneration can vary from person to person. In many cases, symptoms appear suddenly and worsen quickly.
The most common symptoms include:
- A clearly defined blurry or blind spot in your field of vision.
- Central vision loss in one eye or both eyes
- Difficulty adapting to low light, for example, when entering a dark restaurant or theater
- Facial recognition problems
- Print words appear blurry.
- The need for more bright light when reading or performing close-up work.
- Visual distortions, such as straight lines seeming bent.
It’s noteworthy that wet macular degeneration doesn’t affect side vision.
Diagnosis of Wet Macular Degeneration
If you are experiencing symptoms of wet macular degeneration, you should see an eye doctor immediately. An eye doctor can perform comprehensive evaluation and testing to diagnose you.
The diagnosis of wet macular degeneration involves a comprehensive eye exam that includes tests like:
- Amsler grid test:This test detects the changes in your central vision. People with macular degeneration find straight lines of the grid faded, broken, or distorted.
- Dilated eye exam:Your eye doctor will use drops to dilate (widen) your pupils so that they can better examine the back of your eye.
- Fluorescein angiography:This test involves injecting a dye into your bloodstream that travels to the blood vessels in your eye. Your eye doctor will then take pictures of the blood vessels to look for any signs of leakage under the macula.
- Optical coherence tomography (OCT):This test involves using an imaging machine to take detailed images of your retina and macula and identify areas of thinning, thickening, or swelling.
- Optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA): This test uses laser light reflection and an OCT scanning device to produce 3D images of blood flow through your eye.
Wet Macular Degeneration Treatment
While there is currently no cure for wet macular degeneration, there are several treatment options that can help slow the progression of the disease and preserve vision. The most common wet macular degeneration treatments include:
The drugs, called anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF), are specifically designed to interrupt the process of angiogenesis, which is the formation of new blood vessels.
In wet macular degeneration, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina. Anti-VEGF drugs work by blocking the signals that stimulate the growth of these abnormal blood vessels. These drugs are typically administered through injections directly into the eye. Some commonly used anti-VEGF drugs include bevacizumab (Avastin), ranibizumab (Lucentis), and aflibercept (Eylea). These are considered first-line treatments for nearly all stages of WMD.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT)
Photodynamic therapy is a two-step treatment that begins with the intravenous administration of a light-sensitive drug called Verteporfin. Once this drug reaches the retina, it adheres to the abnormal blood vessels.
A laser is then directed into the eye, which activates the drug. This activation damages the abnormal blood vessels, ultimately leading to their closure. This process helps to slow the rate of vision loss. The treatment may need to be repeated if monitoring shows further leakage from the blood vessels.
During this procedure, a high-energy laser beam is directed into the eye to burn, seal, and destroy the actively growing abnormal blood vessels beneath the retina. This treatment aims to prevent further leakage of fluid that can cause damage to the macula. It may not restore lost vision, but it may help reduce the rate of vision loss.
Each of these treatments has its own risks and benefits and may not be suitable for everyone. It’s important to have a comprehensive discussion with your ophthalmologist to understand which treatment option is best for your specific condition.
Prevention of Wet Macular Degeneration
Although you cannot control certain risk factors such as age and genetics, several lifestyle changes can help reduce the likelihood of developing wet macular degeneration.
These include quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, and exercising regularly.
It’s also essential to schedule regular eye checkups with your eye doctor to detect any early signs of eye conditions such as wet macular degeneration.
Wet Macular Degeneration Treatment Near Me
Wet macular degeneration is a serious eye condition that can profoundly impact your daily life. It’s important to know the causes, symptoms, and diagnosis of wet macular degeneration to seek medical attention immediately.
At Advanced Sight Center, our eye center offers comprehensive and leading-edge eye care, including state-of-the-art eye exams, treatment of eye diseases like wet macular degeneration, cataract surgery, and others.