Macular Degeneration (AMD)
What is Macular Degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the commonest cause of vision loss in people aged over 50 years old. The prevalence 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 central part of the retina which is responsible for enabling fine detailed vision. Without the use of the macula, tasks like reading small print and recognising faces become difficult (or impossible).
AMD becomes increasingly common amongst people in their 60s and 70s. By the age 75, almost 15% of people have this condition to some extent. Big risk factors are smoking, a family history of the condition, and being white caucasian.
What are the types of AMD?
There are two main types of AMD often termed 'Dry AMD' and 'Wet AMD'. In the wet form, there is a proliferation of abnormal blood vessels under the macula. In dry ARMD, there is a collection of small yellow deposits within the retina called drusen, and degeneration of the retinal tissue at the macula. The dry form is more common and more slowly progressive, and the wet form is usually more sudden and causes more immediate vision loss.
What does AMD do to the vision?
AMD affects only the central area of the vision. The condition thus never causes complete blindness or loss of sight.
Is there any treatment for AMD?
Currently, there is no cure for AMD. The risk of developing AMD can be reduced by not smoking. Studies have given us some evidence that a diet rich in antioxidants and certain pigments (found in dark green vegetables like broccoli and kale) may reduce the risk of progression of the disease process. Dietary supplements are available which contain these nutrients in the correct amounts making it easy to ensure you are getting enough. Please ask us in practice for more details.
LUCENTIS Injections for wet AMD
There is now a NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) approved treatment for wet AMD called Lucentis. This is able to reduce the proliferation of the abnormal blood vessels that grow under the retina in wet AMD. The drug is administered by injection into the eye. A minimum of 3 injections are required.
Lucentis has been shown to significantly improve the final visual outcomes for a large proportion of patients with wet AMD. However, the treatment only works in the earlier stages of the condition, and is not effective once the wet AMD has caused chronic scarring of the macula.