What is Macular Degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is the commonest cause of vision loss in people aged over 60 years old. The prevalence (number of new cases each year) increases with age. It is caused by degeneration of the macula, the central and most sensitive part of the retina at the back of the eye.
What is The Macula?
The macula is the critical centre of the retina that facilitates the recognition of intricate details, such as small print and facial features. In contrast, the peripheral retina is primarily responsible for providing peripheral vision. A compromised macula can make these tasks difficult or even impossible, underscoring the critical role that it plays in visual function. Notably, the macula derives its name from the yellow pigment it contains, also known as macula lutea.
As individuals reach their 60s and 70s, the prevalence of macular degeneration increases significantly. By age 75, almost 15% of individuals will have developed this condition to some extent. The primary risk factor for this degenerative disease is age, though other factors such as a family history of the condition, cigarette smoking, and white Caucasian ethnicity may also increase the likelihood of developing macular degeneration. Prompt medical attention is essential for managing this condition effectively and preserving visual function.
What Are The Types of Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is typically classified into two main types, commonly referred to as Dry ARMD and Wet ARMD. The pathological mechanisms underlying these two forms of ARMD are distinct. In Wet ARMD, abnormal blood vessels proliferate beneath the macula, while Dry ARMD involves the collection of small yellow deposits within the retina (referred to as drusen) and the degeneration (atrophy) of retinal tissue at the macula. Around 10% of patients convert from Dry to Wet.
Although the dry form of ARMD is more common, the wet form can be more sudden and devastating to vision. It is essential to monitor any changes in vision carefully and seek prompt medical attention if symptoms arise. Early detection and appropriate management can help preserve visual function and mitigate the long-term impact of ARMD.
How do detect ARMD?
Traditional methods are to look at the macula with a bright light. We for many years before other opticians have been using the Heidelberg Spectralis OCT scan, it has the highest resolution and progression software, if you have any signs of ARMD – we will detect it.
Can you treat ARMD?
Wet ARMD is treated in hospital with injections, whilst ‘treatment’ sounds good, its damage limitation. The key is reduce the risk of conversion from Dry to Wet, which our optometrist can advise on.
Dry ARMD has recently had a breakthrough, the Lumithera Valeda is a non-invasive light therapy which with a 3 year clinical study has shown to help some patients.
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