Macular Degeneration and Vision Loss
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Important Facts About Macular Degeneration & Low Vision
DEFINITION: An eye condition in which the macula, a sensitive area in the retina
responsible for central and detail vision, is damaged, often causing loss of
"Dry" Form - usually progresses slowly and causes central vision loss. "Wet"
Form - rarer, and more severe. May progress rapidly causing significant
central vision loss.
IT: Most common in people over 60, but can appear as early as age 40.
It is the most common cause of severe vision loss among
people over 65, and, as life expectancy increases, the disease is becoming
an increasingly significant problem.
There is no conclusive proof as to what causes it,
however, some scientists believe heredity may play a part, as may UV light
exposure and malnutrition.
PREVENTION: Although there is no hard evidence as to how to prevent this
disease, these steps may help:
Regular eye exams
by your eye care specialist, who is specially trained to detect many
vision-threatening conditions even before you develop symptoms. The
earlier the problems are detected, the better chance of preventing vision
UV-A and UV-B rays. Some studies have suggested that prolonged or frequent
exposure to UV-A and UV-B rays may be a factor in this and
other eye conditions, so always wear your sunglasses that block 99 to 100%
of UV rays when outdoors.
Although there is no concrete evidence that nutrition plays a role, a
healthy diet can't hurt and can prevent many other health problems. Some
eye care specialists may recommend vitamins or minerals to
supplement your diet.
TREATMENT: There is usually no treatment for the "dry" form of
this disease, but low vision rehabilitation can help those with significant
vision loss to maintain an excellent quality of life. Laser surgery can
sometimes treat the "wet" form and low vision rehabilitation can help those
with vision loss.
RESEARCH: There is a great deal of research and several major scientific
studies being conducted to find the causes and develop effective treatments
for all types of this disease. Visit the National Eye Institute Web site for additional information.
DEVELOPMENTS: Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is one of the most promising new
treatments for the "wet" type of this condition. It involves the
injection of a drug, Visudyne, into the bloodstream, followed by a brief
laser treatment. The laser "activates" the drug, which helps destroy
abnormal blood vessels in the eye that damage the retina. The procedure may
be done in the ophthalmologist's' office, and several treatments may be
necessary for it to be effective.
UNPROVEN TREATMENTS: Be wary
of any treatment that promises to restore vision, or cure or prevent this
disease. There are so many so-called "miracle cures" advertised (often
in magazines or on the Internet) that have not been adequately tested for
safety or efficacy. These treatments may be expensive and are generally not
covered by insurance. If you are considering trying a new or untested
treatment, make sure you talk to your eye care specialist to ensure they are
safe and won't interfere with the timely and effective treatment of any eye