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Treatment of Macular Degeneration

Despite ongoing medical research, there is no cure yet for ‘dry’ macular degeneration. Based on clinical studies, some nutritional supplements may slow progression of macular degeneration. This is based on the Age Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) that showed that a certain formula of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and copper reduced the chance of progression from intermediate to late stages of macular degeneration by about 25%. Treatment of advanced forms of ‘dry’ macular degeneration focuses on helping a person find ways to cope with visual impairment.

The most frequently used treatment for ‘wet’ macular degeneration is injection of a medicine that halts new blood vessel growth and causes them to regress. Despite advanced medical treatment, however, many people with age-related macular degeneration still experience some vision loss.

Occasionally, ‘wet’ macular degeneration can be treated with other procedures, including laser surgery. It may also be treated with photodynamic therapy (PDT), in which a light activated chemical is injected into the blood stream and activated in the eye with a low energy laser.

To help you adapt to lower vision levels, your doctor can prescribe optical devices or refer you to a low-vision specialist or center. A wide range of support services and rehabilitation programs are also available to help people with macular degeneration maintain a satisfying lifestyle. Because side vision is usually not affected, a person’s remaining sight is very useful. Often, people can continue with many of their favorite activities by using low-vision optical devices such as magnifying devices, closed-circuit television, large-print reading materials, and talking computerized devices.

Get EyeSmart

Visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s webpage on Macular Degeneration.

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Types of Macular Degeneration

The two main categories of age-related macular degeneration are ‘dry’ (atrophic) and ‘wet’ (exudative):

‘Dry’ or Atrophic Macular Degeneration

Most people have the ‘dry’ form of macular degeneration. It is caused by aging and thinning of the tissues of the macula. Vision loss is usually gradual.

‘Wet’ or Exudative Macular Degeneration

The ‘wet’ form of macular degeneration accounts for about 10% of all macular degeneration cases. It results when abnormal blood vessels form underneath the retina at the back of the eye. These new, abnormal blood vessels leak fluid or blood and blur central vision. Vision loss may be rapid and severe.

Macular Degeneration Symptoms

Macular degeneration can cause different symptoms in different people. The condition may be hardly noticeable in its early stages. Sometimes only one eye loses vision while the other eye continues to see well for many years. But when both eyes are affected, the loss of central vision may be noticed more quickly. The following are some common ways vision loss is detected:

  • Words on a page or faces look blurred
  • An empty area appears in the center of vision
  • Straight lines look distorted