Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in older adults, affecting more than 10% of those over the age of 75. There are two types of AMD: dry (atrophic) and wet (exudative/neovascular). Today, I’d like to focus on the more serious version of the two: Wet-type AMD.
What is Wet-type AMD?
With wet-type AMD, blood vessels break through the macula (the part of your eye that controls your central vision), causing bleeding and swelling that leads to the loss of central vision. Wet AMD progresses very rapidly and vision loss is severe.
10% of dry AMD cases will convert to the wet form. Be aware, individuals with high blood pressure are at higher risk.
Some with dry-type AMD choose to utilize an at-home monitoring device called “ForeseeHome,” that can help catch any progression from dry to wet AMD. You take a daily test to check for tiny changes in your vision. The system then sends monthly reports to your doctor’s office.
Currently, the most effective clinical treatment for wet AMD is “anti-VEGF” therapy. This involves a periodic eye injection of a chemical called an anti-VEGF, which hinders the growth of new blood vessels behind the retina, and keeps it free of blood leakage. Studies show high rates of success for maintaining a patient’s current level of vision and that it may even improve vision.
In select cases, Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) can be added as a second-line treatment or supplement to injections. PDT involves injecting a light-sensitive drug into your arm. After this, a cold laser directed into the eye activates the medicine and seals off the abnormal blood vessels.
It’s important to reiterate, however, that this treatment isn’t a cure, and doesn’t restore vision that has already been lost. But one large clinical trial showed that PDT delayed or prevented further loss of vision during a one-year follow-up with patients.
Ways to Lower Your Risk
Unfortunately, no one knows exactly what causes AMD. Currently, the best way to protect your eyes from AMD is to do the same things you should do to avoid many other chronic diseases.
Research shows that AMD occurs less often in people who avoid smoking (which happens to double your risk), get regular exercise, and eat nutritious foods. Food choices that can help reduce your risk include:
- Dark, green, leafy vegetables
- Carrots, or any food high in beta-carotene
- Fruits high in vitamin C
- Fatty fish, one or more times a week
If you wish to be screened or treated for AMD, please schedule an appointment with me, Justin Kanoff, MD, or any of our other highly-qualified retina specialists: William Benedict, MD, Matthew Manry, MD, or Elisha Tilton, MD at the Eye Care Center of Northern Colorado by calling 303-772-3300.
View Powerpoint slides from Dr. Kanoff’s lecture for the Boulder Community Health System’s Community Education series on “Advances in Treating Macular Degeneration.”