- 01 Jan
WHAT IS MACULAR DEGENERATION?
Macular degeneration is the principal cause among people over 55 years old, leading to blindness. This condition most commonly affects older adults, so it’s referred to, as age related macular degeneration (A.R.M.D.). It will affect more than 1/3 of people between 64 and 74 years old and 40% those over 75.
In the A.R.M.D., the macula of the eye, is damaged. The macula is part of the retina which is located on the inside back wall of the eyeball and is responsible for central vision. It allows you, to recognize faces, read, watch T.V. etc. when the macula is damaged, dramatic visual loss may happen.
THERE ARE TWO A.R.M.D. FORMS, THE DRY ONE AND THE WET ONE.
The dry one, is the most common form and is responsible for 90% of cases. It is characterized by the presence of “drusens” which consist in small yellow deposit under the retina. In the early stages of the sickness, the “drusens” do not affect the vision. However, when the “drusens” become bigger and larger, they can lead to a distortion of the central vision. Also with time, they “thin down” the macula and prevent it from being functional. Some people will then perceive “blank spots” in their vision. It is important to know that the dry form can develop towards the wet form.
The wet form is more serious, it causes the most damage to the vision. In fact, more than 90% of severe visual losses are associated to this condition. It occurs when blood vessels grow under the macula or inside it, pushing against it and leaking fluid, which causes scarring of the macula and permanent damage to central vision.
HOW IS A.R.M.D DETECTED?
As A.R.M.D., is painless and at the beginning may cause very subtle changes in vision, see your optometrist or your ophthalmologist each year for a visual exam. It’s the only way to get a diagnosis. At the beginning of A.R.M.D.: straight lines appear wavy, it also indicates the change of dry form to wet form. This is a serious problem and should be evaluated by your vision specialist. The Amsler Grid is a simple tool which is used to detect the macula distortions. A.R.M.D., patients, must periodically test themselves home with an Amsler Grid and alert their vision specialist if they note distortions, blurry vision, discolorations or holes in the grid.
When it is uncertain if A.R.M.D. is dry or wet, an exam called, O.C.T. (Coherent optical tomography which gives a clear image) can be done, directly at our Val-d’Or Clinic. This way, we will decide if a visit to an ophthalmologist is imperative.
It is important to remember that even in the severe cases of A.R.M.D., people affected don’t lose their peripheral vision. These people, often learn to use their peripheral vision to look at the details. The perception of these details is however not, by far, the same quality as it was originally. The use of special optical help can help people with severe losses, to help live their life as normally as possible.
Currently, there are no medical treatments to cure A.R.M.D. However, research as shown that antioxidant supplements and zinc vitamins can prevent worsening of A.R.M.D. Remember that, these vitamins will not restore visual loss, already, acquired, but as we said, can prevent or slow down future loss. Be careful, a higher dose of these ocular vitamins can generate a negative effect on some people, among others: smokers, and certain medical conditions. These vitamins, even if they are sold, “over the counter”, should always be recommended to you by your eye specialist and must be taken as supplements to your well balanced diet.
Eat healthy foods, every day. Your meals should not contain fast foods and hydrogenated fats (trans fat) saturated fats and chemicals, they should include greens as spinach, Brussel sprouts, Roman lettuce, broccoli, etc. If you take “Coumadin” medicine to lighten your blood, before you add more greens to your diet, make sure you “check in with your doctor”: when you want to add more greens to your diet.
Wear sunglasses with UV protection when you are outdoors, exercise yourself, limit alcohol beverages, stop smoking and have your eyes examined regularly by your optometrist or your ophthalmologist. These are the best advices, we can give you, if you want to keep your precious vision.
If a wet A.R.M.D., is detected on you: with the O.C.T. exam, injections directly into the vitreous humour of the eye can reduce vision loss and, this way, control A.R.M.D. These injections are given by an ophthalmologist, directly here at the Vision-Ère Optometry Clinic. To this day, it’s the only effective method, not to lose central vision.