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Can You Treat Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

June 5, 2024

Several common age-related eye conditions cause progressive vision loss, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Many people are at risk for age-related macular degeneration, especially those over the age of 55. Age-related macular degeneration can lead to irreversible vision loss, but this vision loss may be preventable.

However, prevention and treatment depend highly on how healthy your eyes are and how often you have eye exams. It also depends on the type of age-related macular degeneration you have.

Keep reading to learn about whether you can treat age-related macular degeneration and what this can mean for your vision.

What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

Unsurprisingly, age-related macular degeneration is characterized by the deterioration of the macula. The macula is the center of the retina and the membrane that lines the back of the eye.

The retina contains photoreceptor cells that translate light that passes through the eye into impulses sent to the brain, allowing you to perceive light as images. The retina is a necessary component for seeing the world around you.

However, if you have an eye condition like age-related macular degeneration, the macula becomes damaged over time, killing photoreceptor cells corresponding to the center of your vision. There are two kinds of age-related macular degeneration: dry and wet.

Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Dry age-related macular degeneration tends to develop over a very long period. It occurs as the macula begins to thin.

Thinning of the macula can happen as yellowish deposits called drusen build up in the macula. As drusen accumulates and other age-related changes in the retina occur, it can lead to deterioration of central vision, making it difficult to read, recognize faces, or perform tasks that require sharp, detailed sight.

Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Between the two types, wet age-related macular degeneration develops much quicker than the dry form. The wet form occurs as blood vessels supplying the macula with oxygen grow abnormally, swell, and leak. These blood vessels are also weaker, damaging the macula as scar tissue develops.

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Vision Loss Due to Age-Related Macular Degeneration

During the early stages, there are no symptoms of age-related macular degeneration. Instead, when symptoms develop, they usually begin with straight lines appearing wavy.

As the condition progresses, your central vision will become blurrier, eventually leading to seeing a dark or empty area in the center of your vision. These symptoms are irreversible and cannot be treated.

This is why it is crucial to schedule eye exams with your ophthalmologist regularly. By examining the inside of your eye, doctors can see early signs of damage to the macula before you develop symptoms.

This can be done by dilating your eyes and looking into them with a light or using specialized imaging technology. If you know you're at an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, it's vital to have eye exams.

Risk Factors of Developing Age-Related Macular Degeneration

The most significant risk factors for developing age-related macular degeneration include:

  • Being 60 and over
  • Being Caucasian
  • Having a family history of age-related macular degeneration
  • Tobacco use can double your risk of developing the eye condition and may lead to more severe forms
  • Having high cholesterol or blood pressure due to obesity

You can reduce your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration by staying healthy. Do this by not smoking, eating enough fruits and vegetables, and staying active.

These things will help you manage your cholesterol and blood pressure. However, there's no way to guarantee you won't develop age-related macular degeneration, so eye exams with your eye doctor are necessary.

Eye exams ensure you can receive an early diagnosis of eye conditions like age-related macular degeneration and early treatment. 

Treating Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Treatment for age-related macular degeneration is most effective when it's diagnosed as early as possible. There is no cure for age-related macular degeneration; however, you can manage the condition with proper treatments to slow down vision loss. Treatment varies depending on what kind of age-related macular degeneration you have.

Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treatment

There are few treatment options for the dry form of dry age-related macular degeneration. However, when diagnosed in its early stages, certain dietary supplements have been shown to slow down damage to the macula.

It's also crucial to diagnose dry age-related macular degeneration because it can eventually turn into the wet form, requiring treatment to prevent much faster vision loss. Monitoring dry age-related macular degeneration allows your eye doctor to prescribe helpful dietary supplements and detect wet age-related macular degeneration if it develops.

Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treatment

Although wet age-related macular degeneration is more serious because it causes more rapid vision loss, it is more treatable. There are two primary treatment options:

Anti-VEGF Injections

Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) is a protein that signals the creation of new blood vessels. Anti-VEGF medication blocks VEGF, preventing new blood vessel creation.

This medication is injected directly into the back of the eye after applying numbing eye drops so you don't feel any pain to treat wet age-related macular degeneration. Regular anti-VEGF injections significantly slow down and even stem damage to the macula by preventing blood vessels from growing out of control, swelling, and leaking.

Laser Therapy

Laser therapy, also called photodynamic therapy, combines medication and a laser. The medication is injected into the bloodstream, flowing into blood vessels all over the body, including those in the eye.

A laser is then used to activate this medication, gently breaking down blood vessels that have overgrown on the macula. This treatment can also be highly effective in preventing further damage to the macula.

Do you need treatment for age-related macular degeneration? Learn more about this eye condition by requesting an eye care appointment at Maryland Eye Associates in Prince Frederick, MD, today!