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Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Macula

Age-related macular degeneration (also known as AMD or ARMD) is a disease of the macula. The macula is a small area of nerve tissue in the retina at the back of the eye. The macula allows you to see fine details clearly and do things such as read and drive. When the macula does not work properly, your central vision may become blurry, dark, or distorted. There are two types of macular degeneration, commonly known as "dry" macular degeneration and "wet" macular degeneration.

Dry Macular Degeneration

Most people who have macular degeneration have the dry type (also known as non-exudative macular degeneration). This condition is associated with aging and is characterized by thinning of the tissues of the macula. Macular degeneration usually begins when small pieces of a fatty protein called drusen form under the retina. Eventually, the macula may become thinner and stop functioning properly.

With dry macular degeneration, vision loss is usually slow and gradual. People who have dry macular degeneration should carefully monitor their central vision. If you notice any changes in your central vision, you should tell your eye doctor as the dry form can change into the more damaging type of macular degeneration called wet or exudative macular degeneration.

Wet Macular Degeneration

Approximately 10 percent of people who have macular degeneration have the wet type, but it can potentially cause more damage to your vision than the dry form. Wet macular degeneration develops when abnormal blood vessels begin to grow underneath the retina. This blood vessel growth is called choroidal neovascularization (CNV) because these blood vessels grow from a layer

Most people who have macular degeneration have the dry type. Approximately 10 percent of people who have macular degeneration have the wet type.

supporting the retina known as the choroid. These abnormal new blood vessels leak fluid and/or blood, causing blurring and distortion of the central vision. Vision loss from this form of macular degeneration can occur faster and be more severe than that from dry macular degeneration.

The longer these abnormal vessels leak or grow, the more damage they can cause to your detailed central vision. Additionally, if abnormal blood vessel growth happens in one eye, there is a higher chance that it will occur in the fellow eye. The sooner that wet macular degeneration is diagnosed and treated, the better the chance you have of saving or regaining some of your vision. That is why it is critical that you and your eye doctor monitor your vision in each eye carefully.


Risk Factors

Age

The most significant risk factor for macular degeneration is age. Beyond the age of 50, the chances of getting macular degeneration go up. People over 75 years of age are approximately six times as likely to develop macular degeneration as people aged 45-50.

Genetics

About 20% of macular degeneration is due to family history; the remaining 80% is the result of other factors. Research has shown that first-degree relatives of patients with macular degeneration are three times more likely to develop the condition. Other research shows that the risk of developing macular degenerations is about 19 times higher than normal for a sibling of someone with macular degeneration.

Smoking

Tobacco smoking is clearly associated with macular degeneration. Smoking doubles your risk of developing macular degeneration. Additionally, current or ex-smokers should not take the vitamin supplements like Focus MaculaPro® that have beta-carotene because beta-carotene may increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers.

Gender

Women are more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration than men. Additionally, women tend to live longer than men and therefore are more likely to suffer severe vision loss from macular degeneration.

Race

Macular degeneration is more prevalent among Caucasians and Asians than African-Americans and Hispanics.

Dietary Factors

Eating a poor diet increase the risk of getting macular degeneration. A healthy diet may decrease that risk.

Sunlight

Increased exposure to bright sunlight may increase your chances of developing macular degeneration later in life.

Eye Color

People with light-colored eyes are at higher risk for developing macular degeneration than those with dark eyes.

High Blood Pressure

People with high blood pressure have a higher risk of developing macular degeneration.

Farsightedness

There is a relationship between being extremely farsighted and having both dry and wet age-related macular degeneration.

Obesity

There is a link between obesity and the progression of early and intermediate stage macular degeneration to advanced macular degeneration.


Signs and Symptoms

  • Blurry distance and/or near vision
  • Need for bright light to see up close
  • Colors appear more dull and muted
  • Hazy vision
  • Difficulty seeing when going from bright light to low light
  • Difficulty recognizing people's faces
  • Dark or blurry spot in your central vision
  • Wavy vision — straight lines appear bent or irregular
  • Dark spots or blank spots in your vision
  • Loss of central vision
  • Size of objects may be different for each eye
xample: Distorted vision caused by macular degeneration

Example: Distorted vision caused by macular degeneration.


Diagnosis

Many people do not know they have macular degeneration until they notice they have blurred or distorted vision. Regular eye exams by an ophthalmologist or optometrist can help to detect the early stages of macular degeneration before you are aware of them.

To check for macular degeneration, your eye doctor will dilate your pupils so he/she can see your retina and macula. If macular degeneration is noted, your doctor may have you use an Amsler grid to check for macular degeneration symptoms like wavy, blurry or dark areas in your vision.

Your doctor may take special photographs of your eye with tests such as optical coherence tomography (OCT) and fluorescein angiography (FA). OCT is a high-tech instrument that can detect fluid from wet macular degeneration by creating a special picture of your macula.

In fluorescein angiography, fluorescein dye is injected into a vein in your arm. The dye travels throughout the blood vessels of the body, including your retinas. Abnormal areas in the retina will be highlighted by the dye, showing your doctor whether wet macular degeneration is present and guiding treatment.


Supplements

Dry Macular Degeneration Treatment

Right now there is no cure for the dry form of macular degeneration. However, a large scientific study performed by the National Eye Institute has shown that the antioxidant vitamins and zinc contained in Focus MaculaPro® supported eye health.

Wet Macular Degeneration Treatment

There are three medications used to treat wet macular degeneration: Avastin (bevacizumab), Lucentis (ranibizumab) and EYLEA (Afibercept). Each of these drugs target a chemical in the eye known as vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF. Blocking VEGF reduces the growth of abnormal blood vessels associated with wet macular degeneration, slows their fluid leakage, helps to slow vision loss, and in some patients improves vision.

Your retina specialist injects these medications directly in to your eye in an outpatient procedure. Before the procedure, your retina specialist will clean your eye with Betadine to prevent infection and will use an anesthetic to numb your eye. You may need several injections over the course of many months to stop the disease. Long-term anti-VEGF treatment is often needed for sustained benefit.

Nutritional Supplements for Macular Degeneration

In 1992, the National Eye Institute launched the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS)* to determine whether high doses of antioxidant vitamins and minerals could support vision health. Published in 2001, the results clearly demonstrated that the tested ingredients provided ocular health benefits. Based on the findings of this landmark study, we developed our first product for macular health—Focus MaculaPro®.

A follow-up study (AREDS2®) was conducted between 2006-2012, testing modifications to improve the original formula. The results found that betacarotene, an ingredient which may increase the risk of developing lung cancer among smokers, could be replaced with lutein and zeaxanthin. Focus Select is based on the AREDS2 study, providing a premium supplement which promotes macular health and is safe for smokers and non-smokers.

* AREDS® and AREDS2® are registered trademarks of the US Department of Health and Human Services, which is not affiliated with Covalent Medical, LLC or this website.

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