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Age related macular degeneration or AMD refers to the disease of the eye that is associated with aging. This disorder is associated with gradual degeneration of the portion of the eye (macula) that allows one to see fine details of objects being seen.

Age related macular degeneration

This kind of vision referred to as central vision is necessary for activities such as reading and driving.

Macular degeneration is common among the aged and is generally not associated with pain or other associated symptoms. The age related macular degeneration can progress very slowly or may appear abruptly leading to a loss of vision if not corrected early. It has been noted that macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of loss of vision among Americans aged 60 or older.
 

Age related macular degeneration treatment

While macular degeneration can lead to loss of vision there are several ways in which this can be prevented. The treatment for age related macular degeneration can be categorized into: home care methods, medical treatments and surgical treatment. While surgical treatment remains the mainstay of the treatment options for macular degeneration, medical methods and homecare can help prevent the worsening of macular degeneration.

The treatment for age-related macular degeneration is based on factors such as the type of the macular degeneration, severity of the condition, age of the affected individual and other related factors.

The type of degeneration of the macula generally decides the type of treatment chosen. Basically there are two types of macular degeneration: wet and the dry. Wet AMD occurs due to abnormal formation of blood vessels under the macular region of the eye. Dry AMD, on the other hand, occurs due to gradual break-down of the light sensitive cells of the macula.

Wet AMD is more amenable to treatment and is treated with the use of several different options. These include: laser surgery, photodynamic therapy, and administration of certain specialized injections into the eye. However, none of these treatments offer a permanent cure and the disorder can progress in spite of these procedures. Nevertheless, these treatment options can significantly slow down the progress of this age related disorder.

Dry AMD in its advanced stages does not respond to the surgical treatments. Early treatment can however, slow down the progression to permanent loss of vision.
 

Wet age-related macular degeneration treatment

As discussed earlier, three main types of treatments are available for the treatment of wet type of age related macular degeneration.

Laser surgery

In this type of treatment, laser beams are used to destroy the abnormal blood vessels formed under the macula. The success of this treatment option depends on the severity of the disorder and the location of the blood vessels. The success rate is high in cases where these blood vessels are located far from the central region of the macula. Repeated therapy sessions may be required in certain individuals.

Photodynamic therapy

This is a new age therapy wherein a specialized drug which gets activated when light passes through it is used to destroy the abnormal blood vessels. This specialized drug is injected through a vein in the arm which travels throughout the body and also in the affected regions of the eye. To activate the drug, a specific type of light is flashed through the eye. Once activated, the drug which tends to stick to the abnormal blood vessels begins destroying them. This is a painless procedure which can get completed within 20 minutes. As with laser therapy, repeated sessions may be required.

Injections

The growth of new blood vessels in the eye is generally caused due to abnormal accumulation of certain growth factors that promote the growth of these new blood vessels. The newer therapies often referred to as anti-VEGF therapy involves the injection of certain specialized substances that block the effects of these growth factors. The drug is injected into the affected regions of the eye following the administration of local anesthesia. Multiple injections may be required depending upon the severity or extent of the macular degeneration.

It should be noted that all these treatment options for macular degeneration are not permanent cures and generally slow down the age related changes in the macula.
 

Dry age-related macular degeneration treatment

Dry AMD cannot be treated once it reaches an advanced stage. However, if discovered early, dry AMD may respond to the administration of vitamin supplements. The process of macular degeneration may be slowed down to a certain extent with this therapy.
 

What is AREDS formulation?

The term AREDS refers to the National Eye Institute's Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) which noted that administration of high doses of certain vitamins and minerals in individuals suffering from age related macular degeneration slowed down the rate of macular degeneration to a certain extent. The vitamins used were potent antioxidants which generally prevent the age related changes occurring in our body.

The specific amounts of antioxidants and zinc used on a regular basis in the study were as follows:

  • 500 milligrams of vitamin C
  • 400 International Units of vitamin E
  • 15 milligrams of beta-carotene (equivalent to 25,000 International Units of vitamin A)
  • 80 milligrams of zinc as zinc oxide, and
  • Two milligrams of copper as cupric oxide.


The AREDS formulation has been advised in individuals suffering from AMD. Individuals who are considered to be at high risk of developing this disorder are advised to take this formulation specifically. Such individuals include: those with intermediate AMD in one or both eyes or those with advanced AMD (dry or wet) in one eye.

While the diet can provide these vitamins to a certain extent, achieving such high doses is not possible with regular diet. Thereby individuals with high risk of developing age related macular degeneration are generally advised to take supplements based on the AERDS formulation.
 

Read More: Cataract surgery

What additional care is advised for AMD?

Lifestyle changes which include cessation of smoking, control of weight, consumption of a healthy diet and regular exercise can have additional benefits. 

  • www.nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd_facts.asp
  • ageing.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/36/1/8
  • www.emedicinehealth.com/macular_degeneration/page8_em.htm
  • www.nih.gov/about/researchresultsforthepublic/MacularDegeneration.pdf
  • www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/maculardegeneration.html

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