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What Everyone Should Know About Age-Related Macular Degeneration

A Message From Your Eye M.D.
Macular Degeneration is 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 — the most common form usually progresses slowly and causes central vision loss.
Wet” form — rare, and more severe. May progress rapidly causing significant central vision loss.

Who Gets It
Most common in people over 50, but can appear as early as age 40. As life expectancy increases, the disease is becoming a significant problem.

Causes
No conclusive proof exists. However, some scientists believe heredity may play a part, as well as UV light exposure and nutrition. Studies are ongoing.

Symptoms
Blurred or fuzzy vision; straight lines, such as sentences on a page or telephone poles, appear wavy; blind spot in the center of vision.

Prevention

Treatment

Photodynamic Therapy
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is one of the most promising new treatments for the “wet” form of macular degeneration. It involves the injection of the FDA-approved drug,VisudyneTM, 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. The procedure may be done in the Eye M.D.s’ office, and several treatments may be necessary for it to be effective.

Because the US Food and Drug Administration has approved Visudyne use for PDT as safe and effective, PDT may become more widely available to patients. However, it is not a good choice for everyone. Your Eye M.D. can tell you if you might be a good candidate for treatment.

Unproven Treatments
Be wary of any treatment that promises to restore vision, cure or prevent macular degeneration. There are 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 M.D. to ensure they are safe and won’t interfere with timely and effective treatment of other eye problems.

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 www.nei.nih.gov.

Low Vision Rehabilitation
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 M.D. can arrange rehabilitation or refer you to organizations that can help.

Support
Adjusting to vision loss can be difficult at first. Your Eye M.D. 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.

Resources
Your Eye M.D — your best resource for any eye care question or need. (Your Eye M.D. is a medical doctor specially trained to provide the full range of eye care, from eye exams and prescribing glasses and contacts to complex surgery for eye problems.)

Copyright © 2002 American Academy of Ophthalmology