What is Age-related macular degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is a degenerative condition of the macula and the leading cause of irreversible blindness among those over 65 years of age. The prevalence of severe visual loss increases with increasing age. The macula forms the central fine vision of the retina or visual membrane at the back of the eye.
The changes seen at the macula is usually one of two types, either atrophic or exudative. Atrophic degeneration is due to diseased cells of the macula with subsequent thinning and loss of function. In exudative maculopathy, swelling takes place at the macula, due to abnormal blood vessels growing into the space with subsequent leakage of fluid. The symptoms include blurring of central vision and the wavy appearance of straight lines (metamorphopsia).
Age-related macular degeneration Treatment
Urgent treatment is sometimes necessary in order to prevent severe loss of vision, as well as prevent the other eye being affected. The condition is usually bilateral, but asymmetrical. Effective treatment involves a combination of modalities. Stopping cigarette smoking is an important lifestyle modification shown to be effective in preventing ARMD. Smoking roughly doubles the risk of ARMD.
A specialized formulation of antioxidant vitamins and minerals (e.g. Icaps-R, Ocuvite or Preservision) might be protective in preventing disease in the fellow eye, or in patients at risk or developing ARMD.
Recent advances in treatment have resulted in a better prognosis for maintaining this essential central vision.
Treatment with anti-VEGF agents has become the mainstay in the effective treatment of this condition. Avastin injections are given in the rooms, and not in a hospital theatre complex. This not only reduces the cost, but also enables a better reimbursement by most medical aids, since this is a Prescribed Minimum Benefit condition. The Avastin injection is effective in treating the abnormal blood vessels associated with ARMD, thereby improving vision and preventing further vision loss. Low vision aids in the form of different types of magnifying apparatus, are used as an adjunctive in some for visual rehabilitation.