Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects the retina, which is responsible for sharp central vision needed to see straight ahead of you. This common eye disease is typically asymptomatic until vision loss occurs. Therefore, it is extremely important to get screened for AMD with Drs. McGraw on a yearly basis.
Causes of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Age-related macular degeneration affects the macula, which is located in the center of the retina. When the macula starts to deteriorate, it causes a loss in central vision. The exact causes of this condition are not known, but it is believed that lifestyle and heredity can play a factor. For example, individuals with a family history are more likely to develop AMD than those without a family history of the condition. Eating a diet high in fat and participating in unhealthy behaviors, like smoking may also contribute to the development of AMD.
Risk Factors for Age-Related Macular Degeneration
- Advanced Age – AMD is most common in individuals who are over the age of 50.
- Genetics – There are specific genes that are responsible for the development of AMD, and those genes tend to run in families.
- Obesity and Heart Disease – Individuals who are overweight or who have heart disease are at increased risk for developing AMD.
- Race – Individuals who are Caucasian have an increased risk of developing AMD when compared to other races.
- Tobacco Usage – Individuals who smoke or who are exposed to cigarette smoke may be at an increased risk for AMD.
Symptoms of AMD
The primary symptom of AMD is a progressive central vision loss. Individuals with the condition do not typically experience pain or discomfort. Instead, they may first notice that their central vision is a bit blurry, and they may have trouble reading or seeing when driving.
If you are around the age of 50 and notice any change in your vision, it is a good idea to schedule an immediate appointment with Drs. McGraw in order to determine if you have signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Eye Disease Progression
AMD typically occurs in two stages. The first stage is known as dry AMD, which can occur in one or both eyes and affects about 80 percent of those with the condition. All macular degeneration begins as the dry form. This form of AMD does not cause leaking in the blood vessels behind the retina and macula. This form of macular degeneration is characterized by the formation of drusen, which are protein deposits within the macula, and progressive thinning of the macula. Regular eye exams are necessary for all those with dry AMD because whether your dry AMD is early, intermediate, or advanced, there is some risk (increasing with severity of dry AMD) of conversion to wet macular degeneration.
Wet AMD is diagnosed when the blood vessels behind the macula start to bulge and leak, causing an increase in vision loss. As the original blood vessels deteriorate, the macula may grow new blood vessels, which are not as strong as the original and can cause even more leaking. Individuals with wet AMD may notice a sudden change in their visual acuity or a large area of distortion in their vision, where lines that should appear straight such as window shades or street markings suddenly appear wavy, bent, or broken.
AMD Treatment Options with Our Eye Doctors
The first step to treating AMD is getting diagnosed early. Gallup Eye Group utilizes multiple advanced technologies to assist us in detecting AMD and determining its severity. This means it is vitally important to get yearly eye exams that check for damage to the macula and retina, especially if you are 50 years of age or older. If early signs of AMD are detected, Drs. McGraw will discuss appropriate prevention and monitoring for your specific case. In early macular degeneration, eye health vitamins based on the AREDS2 formula (brands such as Preservision) may be recommended. For advanced cases of dry macular degeneration, there are new medications becoming FDA approved that may slow the progression of vision loss. If your case could benefit from these new medications, we will make a referral to one of several available surgical referral centers as necessary as these medications are currently only available as injections into the eye. Depending on the severity of the disease, glasses and contacts may help improve visual acuity so that you can still read and drive.
The treatment of wet AMD has experienced considerable advancement over the past decade, with multiple new medications becoming available to slow progression, and, in some cases, restore some degree of vision. These medications are currently all only available in a form injected into the eye, so if wet AMD is detected, Drs. McGraw will refer as appropriate to one of the several surgical centers, located in either Albuquerque or Farmington, for further evaluation and treatment.
For those currently receiving monthly injections for wet AMD, we are pleased to contract with ophthalmologist Dr. Steven J Hillam, DO, of Orchard Eye Center in Payson, Utah, who utilizes our clinic space two days a month to provide local availability for eye injections. You may contact Orchard Eye Center directly if you wish to utilize these services, or our front desk will also be happy to provide you with their contact information for scheduling purposes.
To schedule an appointment to have your eyes examined for common eye diseases and conditions, like AMD, give Gallup Eye Group a call today at (505) 339-2015.