Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Treatment, Signs, and Causes

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disorder common in people over 50. It comes as a result of thinning of the macula – the part of the retina responsible for providing clear vision in your direct line of sight – and causes blurred or reduced central vision.

Macular degeneration is a progressive disease. It worsens gradually, and if not adequately treated, it can lead to permanent vision loss that cannot be reversed. Unfortunately, most patients aren’t aware of the problem until their vision becomes blurry.

This condition can be successfully treated with intravitreal injection and laser. Most patients opt for injections, which are quite efficient in reducing the number of blood vessels in the retina while slowing and leaking from these vessels.

Intravitreal injections form an integral part of therapy programs performed in Sharper Vision Centers, which provide top-notch macular degeneration treatments that deliver tremendous outcomes.

What is AMD?

Macular degeneration is a common eye condition in people over 50. It is caused by the damage of the central portion of the retina (macula), responsible for focusing central vision in the eye, controlling your ability to read, drive a vehicle, recognize faces and colors, and see objects in fine detail.

It often develops in one eye, but it can gradually affect another one, as well. The best way to prevent a permanent vision loss is by early detection and certain self-care measures; that said, regular eye exams may help you slow down the progression and mitigate AMD symptoms.

Wet vs. Dry Macular Degeneration

There are two types of AMD – wet and dry.

Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration

The dry form is characterized by the presence of the yellow deposits (drusen) in the macula. A few small drusen may not cause any changes in your vision, but if they grow bigger and more numerous, your vision may become distorted, especially when you read.

As the condition worsens, the light-sensitive cells in your macula get thinner and eventually die. It leads to the onset of the blind spots in the central vision, which may worsen over time. There is also a possibility of permanent loss of central vision.


Stargardt Disease

Wet AMD is caused by the abnormal growth of blood vessels underneath your macula. It's called "wet" because these blood vessels leak blood and fluid into your retina; the bleeding can eventually form a scar, leading to permanent central vision loss.

People with wet AMD have blind spots in the central vision, and straight lines often look wavy from their perspective.

Patients often develop dry AMD, which later progresses toward wet.

Wet vs. Dry Macular Degeneration

This is an inherited form of macular degeneration that occurs in the younger population. It's diagnosed in childhood or adolescence, and it affects central vision.

The onset of Stargardt disease is linked to the inheritance factors and mutations in certain genes. People with this condition notice a loss or change in central vision, but their side sight remains clear.

What are Age Related Macular Degeneration Symptoms?

Symptoms of dry AMD develop gradually and without pain. You may notice the following signs:

  • Vision distortion (straight lines may seem wavy)
  • Affected central vision in both eyes
  • Difficulty adapting to low light levels
  • Increased blurriness of printed words
  • Lowered intensity or color brightness
  • Difficulty recognizing faces.

Symptoms can go unnoticed, especially if only one eye is affected. That way, the good eye will compensate for the weak eye.

What Causes Macular Disease?

There is no exact cause of AMD. However, the studies indicate that it may be caused by the combination of heredity factors and lifestyle habits, including smoking and diet.

Risk factors for developing AMD eye include:

  • Age: Age is the most common factor that impacts the onset of AMD. Namely, people over 50 are more prone to developing the disease than the younger population.
  • Heredity factors: If you have a family history of AMD, you may be at risk of developing the condition.
  • Smoking: Smoking cigarettes or being overly exposed to smoke may increase the risk of macular degeneration.
  • Obesity: Research shows that obesity may increase AMD risk, including the progression to the more severe stages of the condition.
  • Cardiovascular disease: Heart disease is also linked to a higher risk of macular degeneration.

What is the Best Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treatment?

If you notice any signs of distorted vision, you should visit our Torrance ophthalmologist and do necessary eye exams. To confirm a macular degeneration diagnosis, our eye doctor may run the following tests:

  • Back eye exams
  • Test for defects in the center of your vision
  • Indocyanine green angiography
  • Optical coherence tomography.

However, our eye doctor may recommend the use of the Amsler grid. The grid helps patients notice any distortions or blind spots in their central vision. It can be done either at home or at our ophthalmologist’s office in Torrance, CA.

Follow these 5 steps for using the Amsler grid:

  1. Wear any glasses you normally use to read and hold the grid 12 to 15 inches away from your face in a good light.
  2. Cover one eye.
  3. Look directly at the center dot with your uncovered eye and keep it focused on the dot.
  4. While looking directly at the center dot, notice if all grid lines look straight in your side vision or if any of the lines or areas look blurry, wavy, dark, or blank.
  5. Follow the same steps with the other eye.

If you notice any grid areas that appear darker, wavy, blank, or blurry, contact your ophthalmologist right away.

Abnormal Amsler grid may look like this:

Another practical diagnostic test includes an Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) and a fluorescein angiogram. The fluorescein angiogram involves an injection of a dye into your vein and photography with a special camera.

Still, a more advanced OCT Angiogram performed by Dr. Oyakawa can detect and diagnose these abnormal blood vessels without the injection of a dye.

Once you've been diagnosed with AMD, your doctor may suggest the following treatments, which have proven to be highly efficient in reducing AMD progression and preventing vision loss:

Intravitreal Injections

Another practical diagnostic test includes an Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) and a fluorescein angiogram. The fluorescein angiogram involves an injection of a dye into your vein and photography with a special camera.

Still, a more advanced OCT Angiogram performed by Dr. Oyakawa can detect and diagnose these abnormal blood vessels without the injection of a dye.

Once you've been diagnosed with AMD, your doctor may suggest the following treatments, which have proven to be highly efficient in reducing AMD progression and preventing vision loss:

Low Vision Rehabilitation

Another macular degeneration treatment option includes laser therapies. They involve focusing an intense laser light beam onto the retina, which can seal leaking blood vessels or even eliminate them.

Another form of performing laser therapy involves the injection of a light-sensitive drug – verteporfin – into your bloodstream. The drug is absorbed by the abnormal blood vessels in the eye, and the doctor uses a special laser to trigger the medications to damage those vessels. This procedure is called photodynamic laser therapy.

Laser Treatment for Age Related Macular Degeneration

Age related macular degeneration doesn’t cause total blindness since it doesn’t affect your peripheral vision.

However, it can severely reduce or eliminate central vision, which is pivotal for driving, reading, and recognizing people’s faces.

It’s recommended to start working with a low vision rehabilitation specialist, an occupational therapist, or an eye doctor since they can help you find ways to adapt to your changing vision. They will also recommend the use of special eyeglasses, magnifiers, and working in environments with bright light.


What is the Best Age-Related Macular Degeneration Prevention?

Early detection of AMD is key to successful treatment and vision improvements. That said, it's vital to do your best to prevent the onset of this condition and preserve most of your central vision.

Apart from routine eye exams, which are essential for identifying early signs of AMD, you should stick with the following prevention measures to stop the further AMD progression:

  • Manage your underlying condition: If you have any underlying condition, such as cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure, you should take your medication and follow your doctor’s instructions.
  • Try to quit smoking: Smokers are at higher risk of developing AMD, which is why it’s recommended to quit cigarettes.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity is associated with most eye conditions, and it’s critical to reduce the number of calories you eat and exercise regularly to mitigate the risk of developing macular degeneration.
  • Enrich your diet with fruits and vegetables: A healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables is vital for achieving balance in the organism and improving overall health. That said, it can significantly lower the risk of AMD.
  • Eat more fish: Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, decreasing the risk of eye conditions.
  • Reduce intake of refined carbs: Refined carbs increase AMD's risk since they cause high blood pressure and insulin release.
  • Control blood pressure and cholesterol: These two parameters should be controlled to avoid the onset of AMD. Cholesterol can build up your blood vessels and inhibit blood flow, which are the main components of healthy eye tissue.
  • Wear sunglasses with protection: There is no conclusive evidence that AMD can be caused by overexposure to the sun, but it's better to protect your eyes from UV light as much as you can.

How to Prepare for the Appointment?

Your eye doctor may suggest you take a high-dose formulation of antioxidant vitamins and minerals to mitigate the risk of vision loss. Recent studies show that the following vitamins and minerals are beneficial for eye health:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Lutein
  • Zeaxanthin
  • Zinc
  • Copper.

However, don't take any of these without prior consultation with your ophthalmologist.

Vitamin Supplements

To check for macular degeneration, you’ll probably need to do a dilated eye exam. Having your pupils dilated will affect your vision for some time, so it’s recommended to have someone to drive or accompany you after your appointment.

Other things you may consider useful are:

  • Make a list of all the symptoms you’re experiencing, including those that might not be related to your vision problem.
  • List all medications, vitamins, and supplements you take, including dosages.
  • List all the questions you want to ask your doctor.

Sharper Vision Centers: Get the Most Efficient Macular Degeneration Treatment in Torrance, CA

Dr. Ray T. Oyakawa, a co-founder of Sharper Vision Centers, is a skilled and experienced professional eye doctor who focuses on patient comfort, safety, and the best methods available. He is one of the best vitreoretinal surgeons in Los Angeles County, and he is known for his unique approach and the use of innovative technologies that deliver remarkable outcomes in treating cataracts, AMD, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and other degenerative eye conditions.

Book your appointment with ophthalmologist Dr. Oyakawa at (310) 792-1010 and get the best macular degeneration treatment in Torrance, CA.