Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common eye disease associated with aging that gradually destroys sharp, central vision. It is one of the leading causes of legal blindness and vision impairment in older Americans.

The progression of AMD can be slow or rapid, but the deterioration of central vision generally occurs over a period of a few years. If you experience the following, see your Eye M.D. right away:

  • Straight lines appear wavy
  • Difficulty seeing at a distance
  • Decreased ability to distinguish colors
  • Inability to see details, such as faces or words in a book
  • Dark or empty spots block the center of your vision

Although the exact cause of macular degeneration is unknown, several studies have shown the following individuals may be at risk:

  • People over age 60
  • People with hypertension
  • People that smoke
  • People with a family history of AMD

The “dry” form of macular degeneration affects approximately 90 percent of those with AMD. Studies have found that high levels of zinc and antioxidants play a key role in slowing the progression of dry macular degeneration in advanced cases.

The “wet” form affects only 10 percent of those with AMD, but it accounts for 90 percent of all severe vision loss from the disease. For these individuals, conventional laser treatment and photodynamic therapy (PDT) treatment is used. PDT is used to reduce the risk of moderate to severe vision loss in patients with a few very specific forms of “wet” macular degeneration. Other experimental treatments that are being investigated include, intraocular antineovascular injections and the insertion of a “retinal chip” to restore vision loss.

Early detection and treatment is the best defense against losing your vision. If you are at risk for macular degeneration, see your Eye M.D. for a complete eye exam at least every one to two years. If your vision has been reduced, low vision rehabilitation resources can help you maintain an excellent quality of life.

Diabetic Eye Disease

Approximately 10.3 million Americans have diabetes. More than half of these individuals are at risk for vision loss and other health problems because they don’t know they have the disease.
Diabetic eye disease, a group of eye problems that affects those with diabetes, includes diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma. The most common of these is diabetic retinopathy, which affects 5.3 million Americans age 18 and older.

Diabetic retinopathy is a potentially vision threatening condition in which the blood vessels inside the retina become damaged from the high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes. This leads to the leakage of fluids into the retina and the obstruction of blood flow. Both may result in vision loss.

More than one-third of those diagnosed with diabetes do not receive the recommended vision care and may be at risk for blindness. Because there are often no symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, your vision may not be affected until the disease becomes severe.

Once diagnosed with diabetes, schedule a complete dilated eye examination with your Eye M.D. at least once a year. Make an appointment promptly if you experience blurred vision and floaters that:

  • Affect only one eye
  • Last more than a few days
  • Are not associated with a change in blood sugar

In advanced cases of diabetic retinopathy, laser treatment has been shown to reduce the loss of vision. This surgery does not cure diabetic retinopathy, nor does it prevent future vision loss, especially if diabetes or blood pressure is not well controlled.

Diabetes also can affect your vision by causing cataracts and glaucoma. If you have diabetes, you may get cataracts at a younger age and your chances of developing glaucoma are doubled.

Early diagnosis of diabetes and effective control of blood sugar and hypertension through diet, exercise and medication can help to reduce your risk of developing eye diseases associated with diabetes.