As you grow older, you tend to suffer from a number of age related conditions. What’s worse is that you are generally unaware of how to respond to whatever you are going through. Many a times, you suffer from multiple conditions and just ignore one while focusing on the other. But when it comes to the eyes, it’s unmissable. When you have a problem with the eye, it meddles with the everyday life of people. One such condition is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD). You are here, reading this because either you or someone dear to you has been recently diagnosed with it or might be suffering from it. This is a detailed overview of ARMD, continue reading to know more about it.
What is ARMD?
As the name suggests, Age-Related Macular Degeneration is an eye disease that usually affects people over the age of 60. It has the potential to progressively destroy the macula which is the central portion of the retina, impairing central vision.
How does it affect the vision?
It is the leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older. It causes damage to the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina and the part of the eye needed for sharp, central vision, which lets us see objects that are straight ahead. You generally read about the cornea, retina, pupil, iris etc. and might be wondering what is this ‘macula’? Let’s see what it is.
Made up of millions of light-sensing cells that provide central vision, the macula is the most sensitive part of the retina located at the back of your eye.
The light is turned into electric signals by the retina, which the optic nerve sends to the brain, where they are translated into the images we see.
How is the vision affected when the macula is damaged?
The center of your field of view may appear blurry or dark if the macula is damaged,.Over time, the blurred area may grow larger or you may develop blank spots in your central vision. For some, the development of the disease is so slow that vision loss does not occur for a long time. In others, the disease develops faster and may lead to a loss of vision in either one or both eyes. ARMD does not cause complete blindness, it only affects the center of your vision.
Does the disease develop in stages?
Yes, the disease grows in three stages, defined by the size and number of drusen under the retina. Drusen are the yellow deposits under the retina, made up of lipids, a fatty protein. Having drusen in the retina can increase your risk of developing ARMD. The three stages of ARMD are,
Early ARMD: The presence of medium-sized drusen, about the width of an average human hair is one of the signs of an early ARMD. People with early ARMD do not lose their vision. ARMD has very few symptoms in the early stages because of which it is important to get your eye examination done regularly. You can be at risk of developing ARMD because of age, family history, lifestyle, or some combination of these factors, it is advised to not wait to experience changes in vision before getting checked for ARMD.
Intermediate ARMD: People with intermediate ARMD typically have large drusen or pigment changes in the retina or both. These changes too can only be detected during an eye exam. It has the potential to cause some vision loss, but most people won’t experience any symptoms.
Late AMD: In addition to drusen in the retina, people suffer from vision loss because of damage to the macula. There are two types of late ARMD:
Geographic atrophy also known as dry ARMD: A gradual breakdown of the light-sensitive cells in the macula and the supporting tissue beneath the macula which causes vision loss is dry ARMD.
Neovascular ARMD also known as wet ARMD: There are Abnormal blood vessels growing underneath the retina that can leak fluid and blood. This may lead to swelling and damage of the macula. Early symptom of wet ARMD could be straight lines appearing wavy, because the fluid raises the macula from its normal place at the back of the eye and distorts vision.
It is possible that you may not notice any changes in your overall vision if you have late ARMD in one eye only, because the other eye is seeing clearly. However, having it in one eye increases your risk for the other eye.
How is ARMD Treated?
There is no outright cure, yet, for ARMD, but some treatments may delay its progression or even improve vision. Treatments to reduce effects of ARMD depend on which stage it is in. There are no FDA-approved treatments yet for dry ARMD but supplements of zinc together with the antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene slow its progression. For wet ARMD, treatments focus on restricting abnormal blood vessel growth include FDA-approved drugs used with Photodynamic Therapy and nutritional intervention that may help prevent its progression. Eyes are one of the most sensitive and important parts of your body, any kind of harm to it can hamper your everyday life. At Sri Sri, our patients’ wellbeing is our primary concern, Hence, we urge you to not neglect your routine check ups so that you don’t have to suffer in the long run.