Cue The Movie

The retina functions as the eye’s movie screen, capturing what’s seen and sending the information to the brain. Any damage or abnormality to the retina can lead to issues with vision. One of the most common retinal concerns is age-related macular degeneration.

Could you repeat that?

Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is an eye disease affecting the macula, also known as the central part of the retina. The condition often results in the loss of central vision but leaves sight off to the sides intact. Patients can experience ARMD in one or both eyes with varying levels of severity. Physicians break down the disease into two forms, either dry or wet.

I don’t like swimming anyway

Dry ARMD accounts for upwards of 90% of all macular degeneration cases. In these instances, cells in the macula thin and break down. Protein deposits called drusen may be the culprit, drying out the sensitive retinal tissue. Although problematic, changes in central vision are often gradual and not as severe. Dry ARMD can evolve to wet ARMD at any stage of the game.

Don’t get wet

Wet ARMD is a more dangerous beast. New, abnormal blood vessels form behind the retina and begin to leak. The fluid collects behind the macula, causing a bulge that damages vision and threatens healthy cells. Much more severe than the dry counterpart, wet ARMD can quickly lead to central vision loss.

An unknown source

There’s no exact science on what causes age-related macular degeneration to occur. The disease’s primary contributor, however, is right in the name. Age-related macular degeneration is most likely to show up in patients over 50, sometimes without warning. Family history of the ailment can also play a significant role. Other risk factors include obesity, smoking, diabetes, or high blood pressure.

Not the side effects you want

As mentioned previously, ARMD’s dirty tactic is the loss of central vision. Other symptoms often creep up before the disease reaches this point that are well worth watching out for. Distortions, such as straight lines appearing bent, are a telling sign of the ailment. Patients may also experience blurriness, difficulty seeing in low light, or trouble making out faces. Any of the above symptoms, especially wavy lines or a loss of central vision, are a sign to see the eye doctor as soon as possible.

Hunting for the cure

There’s no cure for ARMD at this time, but not all hope is lost. Making wise lifestyle choices can lower risk or help prevent an existing diagnosis from worsening. This could include healthier eating habits, quitting smoking, or getting blood pressure under control. High doses of certain vitamins and minerals may also slow progression.

You can’t just dry off

Should ARMD move to the wet stage, a few other treatment options become available. An ophthalmologist may inject medicines called anti-VEGF to stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels. Alternatively, photodynamic therapy (PDT) can eliminate extra blood vessels as well. At times, the two treatments can be part of the same plan to reduce wet ARMD.

Visit as often as you’d like

Visiting an eye physician is a crucial first step in the battle against ARMD. Because there’s no cure, treatments are often just a temporary reprieve. A carefully crafted long-term plan offers the best chance of keeping the disease under wraps.