Age-related macular degeneration, (ARMD) sounds like a mouthful, but it’s the number one leading cause of blindness in this country. Sadly those numbers are increasing each year therefore we thought it a very important topic to discuss and understand to help reduce these increasing numbers.
The macula is located in the center of the back of the eye and contains mostly cone cells (receptors cells that are sensitive to light that form images in the eye to send to the brain). These receptors are responsible for the sharpness of our vision. As we approach our later years damage may occur to these very important cells. This can be caused by a number of factors, including excessive UV exposure (the lighter color eyed patients tend to have higher risk), genetic predisposition (runs in your family), and/or smoking (might be the highest risk factor of all).
There are two types of macular degeneration which may occur; dry and wet. In dry ARMD, debris builds up in the back of the eye due to free radicals of oxygen that form in our elder years. These radicals of oxygen affect the proper production of healthy receptor cells in the macula which eventually leads to their death and hence loss of central 20/20 vision. This form is usually seen first and much more common. Though there is no cure, vitamins and antioxidants (preventing the free radicals from forming) can slow its progression. Still proper oxygen levels are extremely important to keeping those nerve cells alive, hence the reason smoking always leads to receptor destruction in the eye.
Wet AMD is less common and much more severe than dry. In conjunction with the debris build-up of dead receptor cells; abnormal blood vessel growth starts to aid the dying tissue but only causes more complications. These new blood vessels are poorly built by the immune system is have a tendency to bleed and leak, causing rapid irreversible damage to more receptor cells. Certain drugs and laser treatments can help prevent the growth of these blood vessels if caught early enough. Still most of the damage is very difficult to treat. Thankfully stem cell research is helping to make some changes in this aggressively blinding disease.
Macular degeneration itself typically does not result in complete blindness. Rather, advanced ARMD renders only the center of vision useless, while the periphery remains unaffected. Needless to say this sort of lost can be devastating to most patients especially since our central vision is crucial to daily function. For this reason we at Eyed LA highly recommend yearly dilations and check ups for our seniors, even if they don’t require glasses; health must be checked. Early detection can save someone’s vision and keep them as active members of our communities. Call us today for more information.
See and Be Seen! at Eyed LA Optometry in Brentwood, West Los Angeles