Your ophthalmologist or optometrist will inspect the macula, the portion of the retina that is responsible for your central vision, as part of a comprehensive eye exam. If macular degeneration is suspected, a special photographic procedure using dye, called fluorescein angiography, may be performed. The test details the pattern of your eye's blood vessels and can detect a variety of abnormalities.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over age 60. It occurs when the small central portion of the retina, known as the macula, deteriorates. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of the eye. Because the disease develops as a person ages, it is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Although macular degeneration is almost never a totally blinding condition, it can be a source of significant visual disability.
People who develop significant age-related macular degeneration (AMD) typically compensate with large-print publications and magnifying lenses for everyday activities. In addition, evidence suggests that certain vitamins and antioxidants -- vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and zinc -- may help reduce or delay the risk of severe vision loss. Ask your eye doctor about using nutritional supplements.
Treatment for Dry Macular Degeneration
Dry macular degeneration, the most common form of AMD, cannot be cured at this time, but patients with the condition should continue to remain under an ophthalmologist's care to monitor both eyes. If the one eye is healthy, screening should still continue.
Treatment for Wet Macular Degeneration
A variety of treatments are available for wet AMD. Successful treatment may not restore normal vision, but it will improve sight and prevent central vision loss from worsening. While laser procedures can destroy the abnormal blood vessels, they also damage neighboring retinal tissue.
Medications, such as Eylea, Lucentis, and Macugen, have become the preferred treatment for acute wet macular degeneration, helping to prevent the growth of leaky blood vessels in your eye. Lucentis is given once every month, although some patients may need treatment only once every three months. Macugen is given every six weeks. Eylea is given once every two months after three once-monthly injections.
Laser photocoagulation destroys leaking blood vessels that have grown under the macula and halts the leakage. Laser therapy is helpful for about 10%-20% of people with wet macular degeneration. Some vision loss may occur, because this treatment creates scar tissue that is perceived as blind spots; however, even more vision would be lost if nothing is done at all. Up to half of patients who elect laser therapy may need repeat treatments.