Macular Degeneration

What is age related macular degeneration?

Age related macular degeneration is a disease in which the cells of the macula (the part of the eye responsible for central vision and fine detail) are damaged by waste products leading to decreased central vision.  As the name implies, one of the main risk factors is age.  The older a patient is the higher the chance he/she will develop age related macular degeneration.

Patients with macular degeneration have characteristic buildup of waste products in the macula referred to as drusen.


What is the difference between wet and dry macular degeneration?

Dry macular degeneration is the more common of the two subtypes of macular degeneration.  In the dry form of the disease, a buildup of waste products along with oxidative damage leads to injury and eventual death of the photoreceptor cells in the macula.  This form of the disease is typically slowly progressive and can take many years to cause a decrease in vision.

Wet macular degeneration implies new abnormal blood vessels have begun growing into the macula.  It is referred to as “wet” because these abnormal vessels are prone to leaking blood and fluid into the surrounding tissue, which often leads to a rapid decline in central vision.

Around 10% of patients with the dry form will develop the wet form of the disease.  this statistic is one reason why patients with the dry form of the disease should be monitored closely for development of the wet form of the disease.


What are the treatment options for age related macular degeneration?

At this point, the treatment options for the dry form of the disease are limited to taking specific vitamin and anti-oxidant supplements.  Cessation of smoking is also very important in slowing the progression of the disease.

We now have a number of medications that we can inject into the eye to treat the wet form of the disease.  These medications cause the new abnormal blood vessels to atrophy and can drastically improve vision in eyes affected with the wet form of the disease.