Age-related macular Degeneration (AMD) is the predominant cause of vision loss, particularly among Canadians over 55. This eye condition impacts two types of AMD: wet and dry. Wet AMD, although more severe, is the most treatable form.
Understanding Wet AMD
Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration (Wet AMD) is a chronic eye disorder leading to blurred vision or a blind spot. It affects the retina, specifically the macula, responsible for central vision, thereby affecting crucial activities such as reading and driving. Approximately 20% of individuals with dry AMD develop wet AMD for reasons that medical professionals still do not understand.
The science behind the progression to Wet AMD lies within a protein known as VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor). VEGF triggers the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the eye, causing leakage of fluid or blood damaging the delicate cells of the retina.
Wet AMD vs. Dry AMD
While related, Dry AMD and Wet AMD manifest noticeably different symptoms and progression timelines. Dry AMD is a slow, progressive disease often undetectable in its early stages, whereas Wet AMD can deteriorate more rapidly, causing more severe vision loss.
Symptoms of Wet AMD
Understanding the symptoms of Wet AMD is crucial for early detection and treatment. Here are some of the critical signs that individuals should be mindful of:
- Visual Distortions: This often includes perceiving straight lines as wavy or curved. For instance, door frames or lampposts might appear bent.
- Reduced Central Vision: This is typically in one or both eyes, potentially making activities like reading, sewing, or other tasks that require focused vision more difficult.
- Increased Need for Light: You might need more light when reading or working up close, and your eyes are taking longer to adjust from darkness to light. Perhaps you now need to turn on a lamp to read a book in the afternoon, whereas before the natural light would suffice.
- Trouble Adapting to Low-light: Tasks that require low-light adaptation, such as navigating a dimly lit room, may become increasingly challenging.
- Printed Words Become Blurry: Reading a book or a menu at a restaurant may become increasingly difficult as words appear blurry or hazy.
- Reduced Color Intensity or Brightness: Colors may not appear as bright as they used to be, and it may be harder to distinguish between different color shades. For example, you might struggle to differentiate between navy blue and black.
- Difficulty Recognizing Faces: As vision deteriorates, it might become more accessible to recognize people’s faces once they’re close up, especially in low-light situations.
- Blurry or Blind Spot in Field of Vision: A dark, blurry area or ‘blind spot’ may appear in the center of your vision. For example, looking at someone might seem like a shadow or blur obscures their face.
Each person’s experience with Wet AMD can differ, and symptoms can come and go. It’s crucial to monitor any changes in vision and consult an eye care professional if these symptoms are observed.
Wet AMD: Diagnosis
Wet AMD is diagnosed through a comprehensive series of tests. These include an examination of the back of the eye, an Amsler grid test to detect vision problems stemming from damage to the macula, Fluorescein angiography to visualize blood flow in the retina and choroid, and Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) to provide a detailed view of the retina’s layers, helping to map and measure its thickness.
Wet AMD: Treatment Options
Effective management of Wet AMD involves a holistic approach combining lifestyle changes, medication, nutritional supplements, and potential clinical treatments. Early detection through regular eye exams is crucial in the process. Here are the critical treatment options:
Implementing specific changes can significantly help manage the disease and its impact on daily life:
- Diet: A balanced diet rich in green leafy vegetables, fruits, and fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids can contribute to overall eye health.
- Exercise: Regular physical activity can improve overall health and reduce the risk of AMD progression.
- Quit Smoking: Smoking accelerates the progression of AMD. Therefore, quitting is a significant step towards managing the disease.
Medication plays a vital role in controlling Wet AMD:
- Anti-VEGF Drugs: These are the most common line of treatment for Wet AMD. Anti-VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor) drugs help slow down the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the retina. They are often injected directly into the eye and have shown promising results in controlling the progression of the disease.
Besides medication, there are other treatment options available:
- Photodynamic Therapy (PDT): PDT combines a light-activated drug and a particular light source to destroy abnormal blood vessels in the eye.
- Laser Photocoagulation: This process seals off abnormal blood vessels to prevent leakage, although it’s less commonly used today due to the risk of damaging healthy tissue.
Certain nutritional supplements have been shown to slow the progression of the disease. These supplements, when combined with a healthy diet, play a crucial role in maintaining eye health and supporting treatment:
- Vitamin C and E: These antioxidants help protect cells from damage. The combination of Vitamin C and E has been reported to slow the progression of AMD.
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin: These are naturally occurring pigments found in the eye. Increasing the levels of these pigments in the eye can help improve the macula’s health and may slow the progression of Wet AMD.
- Zinc and Copper: Zinc, sometimes paired with copper to prevent anemia, is used to slow the progression of AMD. Zinc is an essential trace mineral that helps the body resist infection and repair tissues, including the tissues in the eye.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Found in fish oils, these essential nutrients are known to play a role in maintaining retinal function and may slow the progression of AMD.
Regular Eye Exams and Early Detection
Routine eye examinations allow early detection of any vision changes associated with Wet AMD. The sooner changes are noticed, and treatment begins, the better the outcome.
Each treatment plan may vary based on their specific condition and needs. It’s essential to have regular conversations with your eye care professional to ensure the most effective treatment.
Role of Garibaldi Eye Care
Garibaldi Eye Care, located in Downtown Squamish, offers comprehensive, personalized care in diagnosing and treating Wet AMD. We bring together state-of-the-art technology with highly experienced optometrists to deliver patient-focused care. We believe in empowering our patients with knowledge and tools to manage their condition effectively.
For those living with AMD or at risk, remember to prioritize eye health with a balanced diet, regular exercise, routine eye checks, and being vigilant for any vision changes.
Early detection through routine eye examinations and prompt, personalized care can make a critical difference. Trust the team at Garibaldi Eye Care, where your vision is our mission.