What is macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that affects the health of the back of the eye (retina). This is an aging disease that affects the area of centre vision. The side vision, or peripheral vision, is fortunately not affected by this disease.
This is the most common cause of legal blindness in North America.
There are 2 main types of macular degeneration.
- Dry Macular Degeneration - the area of center vision in the retina slowly degenerates with time. This affects the ability to see peoples faces, read, or see at a computer screen clearly.
- Wet Macular Degeneration - this disease is caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the retina that leak or bleed. This typically makes things appear crooked or distorted, and affects the vision much more quickly than the dry type. The bleeding causes progressive scarring and damage to the retina.
How is macular degeneration diagnosed?
Macular degeneration is diagnosed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist by looking at the back of the eye with specialized equipment, and by using an OCT (ocular coherence tomography). An OCT gives a special “cross sectional” high resolution view of the layers of the retina.
Sometimes another special test called an “angiogram” is needed to look at the blood flow at the back of the eye. This test involves injecting an intravenous dye into the blood, and then taking special pictures at the back of the eye to see how the dye circulates in the blood.
How is macular degeneration treated?
Dry Macular Degeneration - unfortunately there is no treatment for dry macular degeneration. Low vision aids can be helpful (magnifiers, telescopes, closed circuit TV’s, etc….) Using a good pair of sunglasses may help prevent macular degeneration.
Wet Macular Degeneration - fortunately there is a treatment for wet macular degeneration. This involves injecting a special medicine into the eye (Avastin, Lucentis, or Eylea) once a month. This medicine stops the bleeding and leakage of fluid, and prevents further damage to the retina. If wet macular degeneration is picked up early, the prognosis can be reasonably good. These medicines are covered for people over the age of 65.