Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD)

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is an aging process that affects the central area of the retina called the macula.

How the Retina Works

The retina enables all sight.  It is like a sheet of cellophane that lines the entire inner wall of the eye.

  • The retina is made up of millions of nerves that funnel into a cable-like structure called the optic nerve.
  • The optic nerve leaves the back of the eye and connects directly into the brain.

Within the retina is a small area called the macula that makes up approximately 10% of the retina. If the retina was a target, the macula would be the bull’s eye. This is the part of the retina that enables fine detail sight. The rest of the retina accounts for peripheral vision and night vision.

Types of Macular Degeneration

There are two types of macular degeneration: the dry and the wet type.

  • Dry ARMD: Gradual damage to the individual cells in the macula. About 20% of patients with dry macular degeneration will go on to develop the wet type.
  • Wet ARMD: Blood vessels grow into the macula where they do not belong. These new vessels can leak into the macula and cause a rapid decrease in vision (within days or weeks ). Eventually, a permanent scar in the macula can form resulting in severe permanent vision loss.

Symptoms of Macular Degeneration

A small amount of macular degeneration is commonly seen in patients over the age of 70. It is often mild and does not affect the vision, but it can increase slowly over the years. Symptoms can include:

  • Decrease in central vision
  • Peripheral vision remains unchanged
  • Blind spot in central vision (in severe cases)
  • Straight lines may appear bent or distorted (with wet ARMD)

The worst case scenario is that patients may be able to see with peripheral vision but will not be able to see details well enough for activities like reading or driving.

Treatment for Macular Degeneration

The good news is that medical treatment can significantly slow down the progression of macular degeneration.

A combination of specific antioxidant vitamins at specific doctor-recommended levels and dosages has been proven to significantly decrease the progression of dry ARMD and the chances of developing wet ARMD. You must take the appropriate vitamins daily to get the full benefits. The main vitamins include:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Zinc
  • Lutein
  • Zeazanthin

Importance of Early Diagnosis of ARMD: Amsler Grid

It is essential to recognize wet ARMD quickly. This can be tricky because the early stages of blood vessel growth into the macula may begin without noticeable vision changes (especially if it is only occurring in one eye).

How the Amsler Grid Works

As vessels begin to invade the macula, straight lines may appear bent and distorted. If your doctor suspects you may be developing ARMD, you may be asked to look at an Amsler Grid every day to track your vision and check for distortions of straight lines. The Amsler Grid should be placed in a convenient location like a bathroom mirror or a refrigerator door.

  • The grid consists of a sheet of paper with a series of vertical and horizontal straight lines that form a grid of small boxes.
  • Each eye should be tested separately with the Amsler Grid for a few seconds a day. (Damage from wet macular degeneration in one eye can be hidden by the second healthier eye when both eyes are open.)
  • As blood vessels begin to invade the macula, the straight lines may appear bent and distorted.
  • If distortion is detected, notify your doctor within 1-2 days.

If caught early, medical treatments can stop early abnormal vessel growth and “dry them up” before a significant macular scar forms. Most likely, the grid will never change. But if it does, the chances of preserving your vision will have been maximized by daily Amsler Grid use.

If you are experiencing any vision changes, contact us today to schedule an eye exam.