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Aging Boomer Living

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Greetings!!  This week’s post is about age-related macular degeneration, an eye condition that affects approximately 11 million people in the United States.  According to Brightfocus.org, macular degeneration is the leading cause of eyesight loss for those of us 60 and older in the United States. 


ABOVE: Human eye cross-sectional view (NIH National Eye Institute [Public domain])

What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

As we age, the small central part of the retina, the macula, can deteriorate.  There are two main types of macular degeneration, both can cause loss of vision in the central field of vision:

Wet Form is where abnormal blood vessels develop under the macula.  The abnormal blood vessels leak fluids and blood into the retina.  This can cause you to see wavy lines that should be straight.  Additionally, the scaring from these abnormal vessels bleeding, can lead to the loss of  vision.


ABOVE:Fundus photograph of the right eye, showing a fundus with no sign of disease or pathology. Häggström, Mikael (2014). “Medical gallery of Mikael Häggström 2014“. WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.008ISSN 2002-4436.  Public Domain.

A fundus photo showing intermediate age-related macular degeneration (dry form).  Credit: National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, Ref#: EDA2

ABOVE: A fundus photo showing intermediate age-related macular degeneration (dry form). Credit: National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, Ref#: EDA2

The Dry Form is caused by drusen deposits in the macula.  As they continue to grow, you may start noticing a dimming or distortion as you read.  Drusen deposits can also cause tissue to die leaving blind spots in the central area of vision.

What Causes Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

According to the National Eye Institute, those most at risk are smokers, Caucasians (approximately 33% of Caucasians have a gene that has been identified with age-related macular degeneration), and those with a family history of the disease.  Other risk factors include high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and gender (two thirds of the people with age-related macular degeneration are female).   Additionally, light colored eyes also increase the chances of developing dry macular degeneration.

It is estimated that the disease will affect approximately 22 million people in the United States by the year 2050. 

https://www.brightfocus.org/macular/article/age-related-macular-facts-figures

Diagnosis

There is no cure for age-related macular degeneration.   Early diagnosis and treatment can help slow progression of the disease.

A diagnosis can be made by your regular eye doctor through pupil dilation.  If the disease is suspected by your regular eye doctor, you will need to see an ophthalmologist who specializes in the disease.   The ophthalmologist will run several tests to confirm the disease.  These tests will also diagnose which type of the disease you may have.

Treatment

There are several treatments, none of which will cure the disease.  However, they may extend the time the patient can see.  They include blue light therapy (photodynamic therapy), laser surgery, and injections into the eye.  These treatments are designed to reduce the abnormal growth of the blood vessels.

According to medicinenet.com, there is no treatment for the dry version of age-related macular degeneration.  Research is ongoing with hopes that one of the clinical trials will prove fruitful.

More Information

I hope this simplified explanation of the disease has peaked your interest into finding out more about this disease.  It is estimated that the disease will affect approximately 22 million people in the United States by the year 2050. 

Following are links to various websites that specialize in the study and treatment of age-related macular degeneration.

Do you or someone you know suffer from this disease? Leave a comment below.

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