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Macular Degeneration Treatment in Memphis

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Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is a common eye disease that affects a tiny area in the center of the retina known as the macula. The retina is the nerve layer at the back of the eye that transmits images from light to the brain. The macula is made up of millions of light-sensing cells that produce the sharp central vision. ARMD breaks down these cells, gradually destroying central vision.

It is estimated that over 13 million Americans over the age of 40 show early signs of ARMD, and it is the leading cause of legal blindness and vision impairment in the senior population. Smokers, people with light colored eyes, and individuals with a family history of ARMD are more at risk for developing this condition.

ARMD is detected during a comprehensive eye examination during which your eye doctor will examine the health of your retina. Once detected, your doctor may recommend additional testing. The most common test is called a “Fluorescein Angiography”. A special dye is injected into the vein and pictures are taken of the dye traveling through the retina in the back of the eye. This test is used to assess the type of the disease, monitor progression and determine treatment. The newest technology for ARMD at MECA is the OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) Imaging, which gives us a cross-sectional image of the retina and macula. This allows us to even better assess any potential macular or retinal disease.

With ARMD, the central vision decreases. The side vision is almost never affected. In other words, macular degeneration carries good news and bad news. The good news is that people diagnosed with this disease almost never go completely blind. The bad news is that when the central vision is severely affected, the driving vision and more importantly the reading vision become limited.

Macular degeneration occurs in two forms: Dry and Wet:

Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Ninety percent (90%) of individuals diagnosed with ARMD have the dry form. The light sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down affecting central vision over time. Dry ARMD often occurs in just one eye at first, and slowly progresses with time to involve the second eye.

The most common symptom of dry ARMD is slightly blurred vision. Dry ARMD develops very slowly over many years and most people are able to lead normal, active lives, especially if the disease affects only one eye. As the disease progresses, a blurred spot forms in the center of the vision, gradually becoming larger and darker, reducing central vision.

Currently, there is no treatment for dry ARMD. Recent studies have revealed that vitamins rich in anti-oxidants, such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc and Lutein, decrease the incidence of dry ARMD and can limit its progression. These vitamins can be safely taken in addition to the regular daily multivitamin therapy.

There are a number of common health risks that are closely linked with macular degeneration. These risks can be avoided by stopping smoking, controlling cholesterol and blood pressure, protecting the eyes from ultraviolet (UV) rays, and making sure that the diet is high in fruits and green, leafy vegetables.

Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Although only ten percent (10%) of all people with ARMD have this type, it accounts for 90 percent of all blindness. New blood vessels behind the retina begin to grow toward the macula. These vessels are very fragile and often leak blood and fluid under the macula rapidly causing the damage that leads to loss of central vision.

All patients with ARMD should monitor their vision with an Amsler grid which can help detect the early signs of ARMD. In wet ARMD, straight lines can take on a "curved" or "wavy" appearance and the Amsler grid helps detect this change.

Now, more than ever before, early detection of the conversion of dry ARMD into wet ARMD is important as the treatment for wet ARMD has improved greatly in recent years. The new treatments for ARMD consist of intraocular injections to inhibit and cause regression of ARMD.

The eye physicians at MECA routinely check the retina looking for the slightest signs of Age-related Macular Degeneration. If it is suspected, thorough testing will be performed to evaluate the extent of the damage and establish a course of action. Our eye surgeons are highly experienced in medical and laser treatment of the retina.