Our health is truly our wealth. Often, we take this blessing for granted and tend to neglect this very important aspect of our lives. As we age, many of our organs become weak and less functional comparatively, and at the onset of old-age, most of them conspicuously fail us. Our eyes are no exception to this phenomenon. Many an illness befalls the health of our eyes, one of them being age-related macular degeneration, otherwise referred to as AMD. In this article, we will cover in detail about this eye disease and how it can be treated.
What Is Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration known as AMD or ARMD, as the name suggests, is a disease that adversely affects the vision in older people particularly those above 60. The nerve tissue called the retina, which is placed at the back of our eyes performs the function of sensing light. The macula which is the central portion of the retina aids us in being able to focus our vision to read, drive, identify faces, distinguish between different colors, watch the television, etc. Responsible for identifying intricate details, the macula is also the most sensitive part of the eye. When the macula wears down owing to certain factors it leads to visual impairment in older people. An article published by The Lancet has concluded through statistical analysis that about 8.7 percent of people around the globe have AMD and the number is expected to steadily increase in the coming years.
There are two types of AMD known as dry AMD and wet AMD. About 85-90 percent of patients are diagnosed with dry AMD making it more common among the 2 types of the disease. Classified as the early stage of AMD, dry AMD is said to be caused owing to the thinning of the macular tissue combined with aging and the progression of the illness is gradual. In certain cases, pigment deposition called drusen in the macula due to the wearing down of the tissue can also lead to dry AMD. In wet AMD, vision loss is much more severe comparatively. Abnormal blood vessel growth at the lower part of the retina leading to the leakage of blood and other fluids is said to be the cause of wet AMD resulting in permanent damage to the photoreceptors in the eye. This leads to scarring in the eyes of the patients which ends up in severe central vision loss.
Known to affect both eyes or anyone eye, dry AMD doesn’t usually cause total blindness and often occurs without pain. Some tell-tale symptoms include:
- The requirement of a brightly lit room while reading, using the laptop screen, writing, etc
- Straight lines tend to seem bent.
- A decrease in the central vision in either one eye or both.
- Words will seem blurred while reading, especially printed words.
- Difficult to recognize faces.
- Straining of the eyes for better vision in rooms with a dim light.
- Diminished brightness of colors.
The onset of wet AMD is usually sudden, with serious vision changes. Most symptoms for dry and wet AMD are comparable except for the below symptoms that exclusively for those suffering from wet AMD:
- The occurrence of a blind-spot in the path of vision.
- Vision appears to be generally hazy
- Symptoms seem to come without warning
- The rapid deterioration of symptoms
As with the rest of our body, our eyes also need to be cared for regularly. Along with consuming eye-healthy food one must also make it a habit to periodically visit the doctor especially at the onset of any slight symptom or variation in vision. Timely eye-examinations with a healthcare professional can help avoid further complications. In the case of AMD, the initial tell-tale sign in most patients is the spotting of a yellow deposit under the retina termed as drusen, normally detected during eye-examinations. Another method is such that the doctor will ask you to closely stare at a pattern of straight lines and describe what you see. This grid consisting of straight lines set in a pattern mimics a checkerboard and is known as an Amsler grid. Those with macular degeneration are either unable to see some lines on the grid or some lines may seem bent to them, giving the doctor an indication of the onset of the illness. Therein, the doctors subject the patient to angiography or OCT and prescribe the required treatment option accordingly.
Treatment Options For AMD
Macular degeneration is an incurable disease but with timely eye examinations at the initial stage of the illness, doctors can advise treatment options that can help slow the progression of the illness and hence decrease the intensity of symptoms. Some of the treatment methods are as mentioned below:
- Laser therapy – abnormal blood vessels growing in the eyes, as in the case with wet AMD, can be destroyed by using high energy laser beams.
- Photodynamic laser treatment – in this method, the doctor injects a drug into the bloodstream of the patient, that is sensitive to light known as verteporfin. The abnormal blood vessels absorb this drug after which the doctor triggers the medication by directing a laser into the eye. Hence, these abnormal blood vessels are damaged.
- Using Anti-angiogenesis drugs – Medications used in this treatment method effectively block the formation of blood vessels as well as prevents the leakage of blood and fluid in the eye that’s a primary cause of wet AMD. The doctor may administer this medication multiple signs with favorable results at a later stage.
- Vision aids to better eye-sight – in this method, special devices are used that have lenses or electronic systems that help to enlarge the image of objects placed at a close range.
Superfoods To Be Taken
The obvious connection between diet and slowing down the progression of AMD cannot be overlooked. Doctors recommend a high intake of an antioxidant-rich diet with a surplus of vitamins and minerals. Let us take a look at some superfoods to be included in our diet on a daily basis:
- For vitamin E intake consume almonds, pistachio, peanuts, turnip greens, mango, whole grains, etc.
- For vitamin C intake consume berries, citrus fruits, broccoli, cabbage, melons, etc
- For zinc intake consume eggs, chicken, wheat germ, seafood, breakfast cereals, etc.
- For copper intake consume whole grains, seafood, dried fruits, liver, nuts, etc
- Fruits and vegetables containing carotenoids giving them a deep vibrant color like beetroot, carrot, kale, spinach, nectarines, peaches, squash, apricots, etc are all excellent for the eyes. Carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin provide the necessary antioxidants needed for eye health and they are to be particularly included in the diet to preserve vision.
Preventive Measure To Be Followed
To slower the progression of AMD one should follow the below measures:
- Keep a watch on one’s weight. Healthy weight and regular exercise should go hand-in-hand.
- Avoid smoking.
- Consume a balanced diet including all essential nutrients.
- Keep a watch on one’s health and conduct periodic check-ups to ensure all is well within the body.
- Protect the eyes from direct sunlight.
- Pay routine visits to the eye doctor to ensure eye health and for timely intervention at the onset of vision changes.
Although one may not seem to immediately notice changes in vision in the initial stages of age-related macular degeneration, the common tell-tale signs should not be ignored especially if they appear in the form of inability to see colors, inability to see fine details in objects and a general reduction in central vision. Timely intervention can help reduce the progression of the illness, especially in high-risk individuals. Our vision is a gift-from-god and hence should be preserved to live comfortably well into our old age.