MACULAR DEGENERATION

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition in which there is deterioration of the macular of the eye. It is the most common cause of severe vision loss among people over the age of 65.

The retina is the thin layer of light sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye. The macular is a small area located in the center of the retina. The macular provides us with sight in the center of our field of vision. When we look directly at something, the macular allows us to see the fine details. This sharp, straight-ahead vision is necessary for driving, reading, recognizing faces, and doing close work, such as sewing

Types of macular degeneration:

  • Dry: Accounts for 90% of cases. Is caused by aging and thinning of the tissues and cells of the macular. It develops slowly and initially causes only mild loss of vision, but can slowly progress.

  • Wet: Is a greater threat to severe vision loss, even though it only accounts for 10% of cases. With the wet form of the disease, new blood vessels grow beneath the retina where they leak fluid and blood and can create a large blind spot in the centre of your visual field. If this happens, there will be a marked disturbance of vision.

Symptoms:

  • Blurry of fuzzy vision

  • Straight lines appear wavy and distorted

  • A dark or empty area appears in the centre of the vision

Risk factors:

  • Aging - Significant vision loss accompanying more advanced forms of AMD increases from fewer than 1% among individuals in their 60s to more than 15% among people in their 90s.

  • Smoking - Smoking is a major risk factor found in one British study to be directly associated with about 25% of AMD cases causing severe vision loss.

  • Hereditary - Recent studies have found that specific variants of two different genes are present in most people who have macular degeneration.

  • Obesity and Inactivity

  • Poor diet

  • Excessive exposure to sunlight

 

How is macular degeneration treated?

There is no outright cure for macular degeneration, but if it is detected early it may be possible to stabilise the condition.

  • Stop smoking

  • Nutritional supplements

  • Intra-ocular injections of Avastin, Lucentis or Eyelea

  • Low vision aids (magnifiers etc)

 

Nutritional supplements:

A large study in the USA published in October 2001 called the Age-related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) showed that high levels of anti-oxidants and zinc reduced the risk of certain people developing advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by 25%. This was confirmed in a second study called AREDS 2. 

A good combination of the key ingredients are found in Ocuvite Complete. The daily dose contains the following:

Vitamin C 500mg

Vitamin E 120mg

Zinc 25mg

Copper 2mg

Lutein 10mg

Zeanthin 2mg

Omega-3 780mg

Intra-ocular injections (Avastin):

The use of intra-ocular injections is the latest and most exciting treatment for macular degeneration. The drugs most commonly used are Avastin (Bevacizumab), Lucentis and Eyelea.

Lucentis was developed specifically for eye use but is expensive. For this reason most ophthalmologists use a very similar drug called Avastin which is much more affordable and has the same benefit.

Avastin was initially developed to treat colo-rectal cancer. It works by blocking a substance called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). VEGF is one of the causes for the growth of abnormal blood vessels in wet macular degeneration and many people treated with Avastin have shown an improvement in their condition.                                       

The treatment involves the injection of a small dose of the drug directly into the vitreous cavity of the eye. The injection usually needs to be repeated many times for the best affect.

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