Do You Know Your Treatment Options For AMD?

  • By Germaine Shock
  • 20 Feb, 2017
This week on the Eye-Q blog we are continuing on with the theme of AMD Awareness. If you missed our last post that covered exactly what AMD is - be sure to check it out here . Now let’s jump right in with some common symptoms.

What Are The Symptoms Of AMD?

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

  • Hazy or blurry vision
  • Difficulty recognizing people’s faces
  • Colors appearing less vivid
  • A dark or blurry spot in your central vision
  • Trouble switching from bright light to low light and vice versa
  • Increase in need for bright light to see up close

WET AMD SYMPTOMS

  • Loss of central vision
  • Size of objects or colors appearing different for each eye
  • Colors appearing less vivid
  • Blank spots or dark spots in vision
  • Straight lines appearing bent, crooked, or otherwise distorted

photographs comparing normal vision to that of someone with macular degeneration
Dry AMD can present in one or both eyes, and you may not even notice vision changes if only one eye is affected since your unaffected eye will compensate for any vision loss in the other eye. Conversely, wet AMD symptoms will be more noticeable and can worsen quickly.

How Is AMD Diagnosed?

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.
Example of fundus photography on an individual with macular 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.
sample Amsler Grid

Treating Dry AMD

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.

Treating Wet AMD

If you have wet macular degeneration, the goal of treatment is typically geared towards stopping or slowing the growth of abnormal vessels and their subsequent leakage. This can be done a few different ways.

ANTI-VEGF TREATMENTS

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.

LASER TREATMENTS

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.

If you have advanced vision loss from AMD, learn how to make the best of your remaining vision by learning new strategies to accomplish daily activities with the help of low vision aids. Visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology for more information.

Stay tuned for our final AMD blog post where we will wrap up AMD Awareness Month with a few tips for prevention and some surprising facts and statistics.

Eye-Q

By Germaine Shock 06 Dec, 2017

Do your friends often comment on your ‘unique’ choices when it comes to matching colors and patterns? Being fashionably challenged might not be entirely your fault (or it could be). You might be having an extra difficult time due to color blindness.

Color blindness is actually somewhat of a misuse of the word as those affected by the condition can actually still see color - just with a more limited palette. Color vision deficiency is actually the more accurate term. However, there is a rare form of color vision deficiency known as achromatopsia where you are in fact completely devoid of color in your world- but we’ll get to that one a little later. For now, let’s start with the basics.

By Germaine Shock 01 Aug, 2017
By now most all of you have likely seen or are at least familiar with a solar eclipse. Without getting into too much of the scientific details, a solar eclipse happens when the moon moves between the sun and earth during its orbit causing a partial or complete blockage of our view of the sun. Although a solar eclipse only lasts for a few minutes, its thrilling impact will stay with you for much longer.
By Germaine Shock 20 Jul, 2017
School's out for summer! With a little extra free time and flexibility in your schedule, now is the perfect time to  bring your kiddos in for their eye health exams. Most parents will logically assume that since their child hasn’t had any complaints, they must not be having any problems - or that their child is simply too young to need an eye exam. Think again! 
By Germaine Shock 06 Jul, 2017
Sometimes when it comes to kiddos, you’ll find yourself navigating through some gray areas. For example, determining how much screen time is too much - or how old they should be to watch that scary movie. These definitive numbers are so hard to pinpoint simply because no two children are the same. They all mature at different rates, and we as parents have to adjust accordingly. Fortunately, here are a few tips to help in one of those gray areas -  figuring out if your child is ready for contact lenses.
By Germaine Shock 23 Jun, 2017
We have all made a questionable decision or two at least once in our lives. However, when it comes to your eyes and vision, this is one area where it is always better to be safe than sorry. Here are a few of the most common mistakes made by contact lens wearers and a safer alternative to keep those peepers healthy.
By Germaine Shock 14 Jun, 2017

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!

Myo-what?

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.
By Germaine Shock 01 Jun, 2017

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.

By Germaine Shock 16 May, 2017

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?
By Germaine Shock 05 May, 2017
May is healthy vision month - and as we draw nearer to the official first day of Summer, what better time to discuss one of the most commonly overlooked parts of eye health - UV protection. Most of you are probably fully aware of the negative effects UV rays can have on your skin, but did you know the sun can be just as damaging to your eyes?
By Germaine Shock 25 Apr, 2017

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.
More Posts
Share by:
<