Important Facts About Macular Degeneration & Low Vision
MACULAR DEGENERATION: 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 central vision.
TYPES: "Dry" Form - usually progresses slowly and causes central vision loss. "Wet" Form - rarer, and more severe. May progress rapidly causing significant central vision loss.
WHO GETS IT: Most common in people over 60, but can appear as early as age 40. Macular degeneration 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.
CAUSES: There is no conclusive proof as to what causes macular degeneration, 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 macular degeneration, these steps may help:
TREATMENT: There is usually no treatment for the "dry" form of macular degeneration, but low vision rehabilitation can help those with significant vision loss to maintain an excellent quality of life. Prevention of vision loss using high dose vitamin supplementation, such as VisiVite, is beneficial. Laser surgery can sometimes treat the "wet" form and low vision rehabilitation can help those with vision loss. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is one of the most promising new treatments for the "wet" type of macular degeneration. 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 macula.New treatments with medications that are injected into the vitreous humor inside the eye, such as Lucentis, Macugen and Avastin, have been shown to improve vision in many patients, although usually not to normal levels. And these ocular injections may need to be repeated to be effective.
CURRENT 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 macular degeneration. Visit the National Eye Institute Web site for additional information, .
UNPROVEN TREATMENTS: Be wary of any treatment that promises to restore vision, or cure or prevent macular degeneration. 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 Doctor to ensure they are safe and won't interfere with the timely and effective treatment of any eye problems.
LOW VISION REHABILITATION: This can help people who have experienced mild to severe vision loss adjust to their condition and continue to enjoy active and independent lifestyles. Rehabilitation may involve anything from adjusting the lighting in your home to learning to use low vision aids to help you read and perform daily tasks. Your Eye Doctor can arrange rehabilitation or refer you to organizations that can help.
SUPPORT: Adjusting to vision loss can be difficult at first. Your Eye Doctor may be able to recommend some support groups for people with low vision. You can support friends and family by encouraging them in their rehabilitation efforts and providing help (such as rides to appointments) when needed.