Age-related macular degeneration is a complex, multifactorial, progressive disease caused by oxidative stress to the retinal pigment epithelium. HUH!?! Let’s try to break that down into layman’s terms.
The inside of the eye is full of important structures, like the iris (the colored part of the eye that controls how much light is allowed into the eye), the lens (which helps focus the light and can become a cloudy cataract) and the retina. The retina is a very delicate structure that lines the inside of the eye like wallpaper. When light enters your eye and shines on the retina, your retina is responsible for sending all that information to your brain. Then your brain tells you what you are looking at! The retina has many different layers of nerve cells that connect and communicate with one another. The central area of the retina is called the macula. It is responsible for our central vision, which allows us to read, drive, watch TV, etc. In people with age-related macular degeneration, the area under the macula stops working well and causes the vision to get worse. No one really knows what causes macular degeneration, but we do know that it can run in families and be related to a lot of sun exposure, smoking and differences in diet.
How do I know if I have ARMD?
ARMD can cause many changes in your vision, like bad central vision, distortions (seeing straight lines as bent or crooked), blurry reading, poorer color vision and trouble recognizing faces. If you are noticing any of these things, a complete eye exam can help determine if you have ARMD or if something else is affecting your vision. When we do a complete eye exam, we put drops in the eyes that make your pupil really large. This lets us see more of the retina in the back of your eye. We look for signs of ARMD like drusen (yellow spots), atrophy (thinning), or pigmentary changes (dark spots) in the macula. We also have equipment that allows us to photograph and image the retina to help us learn more about your eyes and show you what we are seeing.
What if I have ARMD?
Right now, there is no cure for ARMD. If you have the dry form of ARMD, which has no leaking of fluid or bleeding in the macula, the best way to slow down the macular degeneration is to stop smoking. AREDS-2 vitamins can also slow down ARMD. There are many different brand names of these vitamins, and they are available over the counter. Exercise and protecting your eyes from the sun are also recommended. If you have the wet form of ARMD, there are medications that can be placed directly into the eye to help stop the leaking. Typically these must be administered regularly to continue having an effect. We also offer low vision services to help patients who have poor vision from ARMD be able to do more and be more independent with the vision they have.
Call us at (864) 522-3900 if you would like to schedule an appointment.