Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the United States.
Macular degeneration is an incurable eye disease that affects over 10 million Americans.
Macular degeneration is the result of a deterioration of the central portion of the retina. The retina records the images we see and sends these images to the brain. The retina’s central portion, referred to as the macula, focuses the central vision of the eye. The macula is responsible for controlling your ability to read, drive a car, and see colors and details.
The probability of developing macular degeneration increases as you age.
There are two types of macular degeneration, wet and dry. Almost all cases of macular degeneration are dry, accounting for approximately 90% of diagnoses.
With the dry type of macular degeneration, the retina deteriorates with the formation of small yellow deposits under the macula. Eventually, the macula begins to thin and dry out and the macula slowly loses its function. Central vision loss is possible and usually related to the location and amount of retinal thinning.
The wet type of macular degeneration involves the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the retina and macula. These blood vessels eventually bleed and leak fluid. This leakage causes the macula to bulge out, which can distort or destroy your central vision. Vision loss is more rapid and severe with the wet type of macular degeneration.
For the dry form of the macular degeneration, the AREDS study (a large, 10 year, placebo controlled trial) showed that taking certain antioxidant vitamins and Zinc can slow the progress of the disease. A diet rich in antioxidants may also be helpful. In addition, smoking cessation and controlling hypertension and cholesterol are helpful. Smoking increases the risk of visual loss from macular degeneration.
Exciting new treatments have been developed for the wet form of macular degeneration. Lucentis and Avastin are both VEGF inhibitors that are injected into the eye and are very effective at controlling the wet disease.
For more information on eye conditions, visit http://www.kellogg.umich.edu/patientcare/conditions/index.html
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