There are two different forms of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), Dry AMD and Wet AMD. While all patients who have wet AMD will initially start off with dry AMD, it is wet AMD the form that is diagnosed in one stage and is considered to be the advanced form of the disease – and the most devastating.
Wet AMD symptoms can be detected when straight lines appear crooked, you can try the Amsler Grid Test at home if you are experiencing these symptoms. These crooked lines are a result from fluid leaking from newly formed blood vessels. This fluid lifts the macula and in turn distorts vision. Central vision can also be affected, as small blind spots deteriorate the ability to see.
Eye care professionals who suspect that a patient has AMD will apply eye drops to dilate or enlarge the pupil, allowing them to see the back of the eye to determine the presence of drusen or new blood vessels.
Prevention of Wet Age-related Macular Degeneration
There has been increasing evidence to support the notion that a diet sufficient in meso-zeaxanthin (MZ), combined with lutein and zeaxanth carotenoids can play a role in the prevention of developing AMD. These carotenoids comprise the macular pigment that offers natural protection against the disease. Eye care professionals are advocating an increase of these carotenoids in one’s diet, which can be easily done by consuming yellow and green vegetables and fruits, milk and meat. The richest source of MZ can be found in brightly colored egg yolks from hens that receive MZ in their feed. Fish skin and the fats and oils that extract MZ during the cooking process are also excellent sources.
Commercially available dietary supplements containing the above-mentioned cartenoids are also being used as a means of preventing the incapacitating disease. AMD’s effects are serious, reducing one’s ability to perform daily tasks such as driving and reading, making a dietary change and supplements important for those at risk.
Treatments for Wet Age-related Macular Degeneration
It is an effective means of treating wet AMD, especially if the leaking blood vessels are formed away from the fovea. A beam of high energy light is aimed directly onto the new blood vessels, effectively destroying them, as well as contributing to the prevention of further vision loss. Laser treatment runs the risk of damaging healthy tissue as well as vision and only a small percentage of patients benefit from this method.
A relatively painless treatment, the drug, Verteporfin, is injected into the arm and travels through the body to the eye, where it sticks to the new blood vessels. A light is then shined into the eye for approximately 90 seconds, activating the drug that works to destroy new blood vessels, leading to a reduced rate of vision decline. This method does not destroy surrounding healthy tissue, but one must avoid bright lights and sunlight for five days following the treatment.
Drugs injected to the eye are known as anti-VEGF therapy and they can block the growth of abnormal new blood vessels in the eyes. Multiple injections are required.