As with other eye diseases, such as Glaucoma , macular degeneration in its early stages often has no symptoms that would alert you to a problem until your vision becomes damaged. However, there are some early signs - such as the presence of protein deposits called drusen - that your eye doctor will be able to catch at your yearly eye health exam. For this reason, it is incredibly important to make seeing your optometrist or ophthalmologist a priority - even if you don’t feel like your vision has changed.
As the disease starts to progress, there are a number of symptoms you might experience that will differ in severity depending on how advanced your AMD is.
DRY AMD SYMPTOMS
WET AMD SYMPTOMS
Luckily, diagnosing macular degeneration is pretty straight forward. Your eye doctor will be able to detect any signs of the disease by performing a dilated eye examination and using an instrument called an ophthalmoscope to view your retinas. The ophthalmoscope is a handheld device that allows the viewing of interior structures of the eye with the help of a light source and built-in lenses.Other helpful diagnostic tools are fundus photography - which captures a high resolution photograph of the interior structures of the eyes - and optical coherence tomography (OCT). An OCT uses light rays to take cross sectional images of your retina and allows each of its individual layers to be seen and measured showing any signs of abnormal blood vessels, holes, tears, or degeneration.
If your doctor suspects wet macular degeneration, you may need to see a retinal specialist for a diagnostic procedure called fluorescein angiography. This is where a dye is injected into a vein in your arm, and as the dye travels throughout the body photographs are taken of your eye. Any abnormal areas will be highlighted by this dye allowing the doctor to assess whether wet macular degeneration treatment is possible and where it is needed.Your doctor will also likely send you home with an amsler grid to help monitor your vision for any changes. Check out All About Vision for a free printable Amsler Grid with instructions on how to perform the test at home.
Since there is not currently a cure for AMD, preventative methods are your best bet when it comes to preserving your vision. Furthermore, there is no treatment available for dry AMD. This means staying on top of your eye health and ensuring that if you have dry macular degeneration you are diligent in your attempts to keep it from turning into the more aggressive wet form is of crucial importance. While there are some risk factors for AMD that are out of your control such as gender, age, and family history - there are other things you can control like quitting smoking and leading an overall more healthy lifestyle.
According to The Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2), taking a dietary supplement containing vitamin C, E, lutein, zinc, and zeaxanthin lowered the risk for macular degeneration progression by at least 25 percent. Other studies have shown that eating a diet rich in brightly colored fruits and vegetables as well as dark leafy greens may reduce your risk for developing macular degeneration altogether.
Of course, you should be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any supplement routines.
Remember when we talked about what wet macular degeneration was in our last post and we mentioned the VEGF response? (If not, head on over and catch up ). One of the most commonly utilized treatments involves targeting your body’s vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Anti-VEGF medications work by blocking the VEGF response and reducing the growth of abnormal blood vessels. This in turn helps avoid further sight loss by reducing the risk of scarring and damage that these new vessels cause.
These medications are administered as injections with a very fine needle through your sclera (white of your eye) and directly into the vitreous (jelly like substance inside of the eye). This can sound scary, however, the injections are quick, and a numbing drop is usually administered beforehand so that you do not feel pain.
In some instances, you may have to receive anti-VEGF injections in combination with other treatments. This will all depend on how aggressive your macular degeneration is.
AMD can also be treated with the help of a focused high-energy beam of light. This laser destroys abnormal blood vessels by essentially burning them away to prevent further leakage, growth, and damage. The abnormal blood vessels as usually completely destroyed by this process. However, in around 50 percent of patients with wet macular degeneration, re-treatment will be needed within 3 to 5 years as new blood vessels grow in other areas. This is why laser treatment is sometimes paired with anti-VEGF treatments.
COOL LASER THERAPY
Another treatment option for wet AMD is called photodynamic therapy (PDT). With this method, a light-activated drug called a photosensitizer is used in combination with a low-power laser (aka cool laser). The photosensitizer is injected into a vein in the arm where it travels throughout the body - including into the abnormal vessels behind the macula. The laser is then focused directly on the unwanted vessels, activating the drug and destroying only those vessels targeted. As with the previously mentioned laser therapy, multiple treatments may be needed.
More than likely if you are reading this, you’ve experienced the strange sensation of an eyelid twitch. It can happen anywhere, at any time, and almost always stops the moment you try to point it out to someone else (and of course resumes the second they turn away just to make you look extra crazy). Well you aren’t crazy - at least in this case - eyelid twitches are a real thing!
Better known in professional lingo as “myokymia”, this twitching sensation is the result of involuntary, spontaneous, rippling muscle contractions. These spasms can actually occur in almost any of the muscles in your body. When relating to the eyelids, myokymia is most common in your lower lids but can happen in your top lids as well.
Eyelid myokymia is typically very temporary. The twitching will usually only last for a few minutes, but in some rare cases can last for a few days or even weeks.Your doctor will likely advise you that there is no cause for concern as common Myokymia resolves on its own without the need for treatment. Other than causing mild annoyance, the eyelid twitching shouldn’t cause any long term complications or interference with your vision.
Do your eyes ever feel dry and itchy? Do you ever experience eye fatigue, redness, blurred vision, or excessive watering? You could be suffering from dry eyes - especially if you live in Oklahoma City which ranks as the 17th driest city in the U.S. And despite the name, dry eye isn’t just an annoying feeling - it’s a legitimate chronic eye disease that affects an estimated 4.88 million Americans over the age of 50 alone. And since another estimated 89% of the population have never even heard of Dry Eye Syndrome, it’s easy to see why some would just write off those annoying symptoms as a normal part of their lives.
In honor of Mother’s Day kicking off Women’s Week, the Eye- Q blog has decided to dedicate a post solely to women’s eye health related issues. So what makes women’s eye health so special? Women are actually more commonly affected than men by a number of ocular health issues including dryness, cataracts, age related macular degeneration, and complications from autoimmune disorders such as Sjogren's or lupus. Furthermore, according to Prevent Blindness America, 66% of people who are blind or visually impaired are women.Let’s start with that statistic - why are women more at risk for eye complications than men?
No, it’s not a typo. Sjogren’s - pronounced show-grins - is a type of autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation and damage to various parts of the body; most commonly the tear and saliva glands. This damage results in symptoms ranging from dryness and discomfort to difficulty swallowing and can even affect the lungs and kidneys.So why exactly does this happen? Let’s start with a quick health lesson. The immune system is responsible for fighting disease and killing harmful viruses and bacteria. However, with autoimmune diseases, your immune system has a hard time knowing when to stop fighting and mistakenly attacks your own body. With Sjogren’s, your exocrine glands - the glands that secrete moisture such as saliva, sweat, tears, breast-milk, gastric mucous, etc - become the main targets.
So it’s the weekend and the mild discomfort you were experiencing midweek has now escalated into full blown intense pain. Or maybe you were working on the yard and something flew into your eye? Or perhaps you were wearing your contact lenses for too long and your eye is now extremely red and unhappy. Who do you call? (I’ll give you a hint, it’s not Ghostbusters.) But seriously, should you go to the ER if you injure your eye in some way? The answer might surprise you.