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Macular degeneration is a medical condition predominantly found in elderly adults in which the center of the inner lining of the eye, known as the macula area of the retina, suffers thinning, atrophy, and in some cases, bleeding. This can result in loss of central vision, which entails inability to see fine details, to read, or to recognize faces. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, it is the leading cause of central vision loss (blindness) in the United States today for those over the age of fifty years. Although some macular dystrophies that affect younger individuals are sometimes referred to as macular degeneration, the term generally refers to age-related macular degeneration (AMD or ARMD).
Additional recommended knowledge
Age-related macular degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration begins with characteristic yellow deposits in the macula (central area of the retina which provides detailed central vision) called drusen between the retinal pigment epithelium and the underlying choroid. Most people with these early changes (referred to as age-related maculopathy) have good vision. People with drusen can go on to develop advanced AMD. The risk is considerably higher when the drusen are large and numerous and associated with disturbance in the pigmented cell layer under the macula. Recent research suggests that large and soft drusen are related to elevated cholesterol deposits and may respond to cholesterol lowering agents or the Rheo Procedure.
Advanced AMD, which is responsible for profound vision loss, has two forms: dry and wet. Central geographic atrophy, the dry form of advanced AMD, results from atrophy to the retinal pigment epithelial layer below the retina, which causes vision loss through loss of photoreceptors (rods and cones) in the central part of the eye. While no treatment is available for this condition, vitamin supplements with high doses of antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, have been demonstrated by the National Eye Institute and others to slow the progression of dry macular degeneration and in some patients, improve visual acuity.
Neovascular or exudative AMD, the wet form of advanced AMD, causes vision loss due to abnormal blood vessel growth in the choriocapillaries, through Bruch's membrane, ultimately leading to blood and protein leakage below the macula. Bleeding, leaking, and scarring from these blood vessels eventually cause irreversible damage to the photoreceptors and rapid vision loss if left untreated.
Until recently, no effective treatments were known for wet macular degeneration. However, new drugs, called anti-angiogenics or anti-VEGF (anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor) agents, when injected directly into the vitreous humor of the eye using a small, painless needle, can cause regression of the abnormal blood vessels and improvement of vision. The injections frequently have to be repeated on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. Examples of these agents include Lucentis, Avastin and Macugen. Only Lucentis and Macugen are FDA approved as of April 2007. Macugen has been found to have only minimal benefits in neovascular AMD and is no longer used. Worldwide, Avastin has been used extensively despite its "off label" status. The cost of Lucentis is approximately $2000 US while the cost of Avastin is approximately $150.
The Amsler Grid Test is one of the simplest and most effective methods for patients to monitor the health of the macula. The Amsler Grid is essentially a pattern of intersecting lines (identical to graph paper) with a black dot in the middle. The central black dot is used for fixation (a place for the eye to stare at). With normal vision, all lines surrounding the black dot will look straight and evenly spaced with no missing or odd looking areas when fixating on the grid's central black dot. When there is disease affecting the macula, as in macular degeneration, the lines can look bent, distorted and/or missing.
'Vision loss' or 'blindness' in macular degeneration refers to the loss of 'central vision' only. The peripheral vision is preserved. Blindness in macular degeneration does not mean 'inability to see light' and even with far advanced macular degeneration, the peripheral retina allows for useful vision.
The loss of central vision profoundly affects visual functioning. It is not possible, for example, to read without central vision. Pictures which attempt to depict the central visual loss of macular degeneration with a black spot do not really do justice to the devastating nature of the visual loss. This can be demonstrated by printing letters 6 inches high on a piece of paper and attempting to identify them while looking straight ahead and holding the paper slightly to the side. Most people find this surprisingly difficult to do.
Similar symptoms with a very different etiology and different treatment can be caused by Epiretinal membrane or macular puckeror leaking blood vessels in the eye..
Fluorescein angiography allows for the identification and localization of abnormal vascular processes. Optical coherence tomography is now used by most ophthalmologists in the diagnosis and the followup evaluation of the response to treatment by using either Avastin or Lucentis which are injected into the vitreous of the eye at various intervals.
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study showed that a combination of high-dose beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc can reduce the risk of developing advanced AMD by about 25 percent in those patients who have earlier but significant forms of the disease. This is the only proven intervention to decrease the risk of advanced AMD at this time. A follow up study, Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 to study the potential benefits of lutein, zeaxanthine, and fish oil, is currently underway.
Anecortave acetate, (Retanne), is an anti-angiogenic drug that is given as an injection behind the eye (avoiding an injection directly into the eye) that is currently being studied as a potential way of reducing the risk of neovascular (or wet) AMD in high-risk patients.
Research started in 2005 has shown that intravitreal injection of Avastin (bevacizumab) can improve vision and slow down the macular degeneration. This therapy is currently being used in various centres around the world. Avastin is an immunoligic drug that prevents neovascularization. Hence it may also be effective in diabetic retinopathy. Avastin was initially used for the treatment of colorectal cancer.
A study by a neuroretinologist in the late 80's suggested that microcurrent stimulation of acupuncture points for the eye had positive effects in slowing and even stopping progression of the disease. This study was based on Ngok Cheng's research on the increased amounts of ATP levels in living tissue after being stimulated with microcurrent. ("The Effects of Electric Currents on ATP Generation, Protein Synthesis, and Membrane Transport in Rat Skin.")
On September 10, 2007, in a 6-year study, researchers, led by John Paul SanGiovanni of the National Eye Institute, Maryland found that Lutein and zeaxanthin (nutrients in eggs, spinach and other green vegetables) protect against blindness (macular degeneration), affecting 1.2 million Americans, mostly after age 65. Lutein and zeaxanthin reduce the risk of AMD (journal Archives of Ophthalmology). Foods considered good sources of the nutrients also include kale, turnip greens, collard greens, romaine lettuce, broccoli, zucchini, corn, garden peas and Brussels sprouts.
Juvenile macular degeneration
Juvenile macular degeneration is not a term in standard usage at this time. The preferred term for conditions that affect the macula in younger individuals related to genetics is macular dystrophy. Examples of these include:
The first genetic link to juvenile macular degeneration was discovered at the Cleveland Clinic.
Macular degeneration, in its advanced forms, can result in legal blindness, resulting in a loss of driving privileges and an inability to read all but very large type. Perhaps the most grievous loss is the inability to see faces clearly or at all.
Some of these losses can be offset by the use of adaptive devices. A closed-circuit television reader can make reading possible, and specialized screen-reading computer software, e.g., JAWS for Windows, can give the blind person access to word processing, spreadsheet, financial, and e-mail access.
|Conjunctiva||Conjunctivitis - Pterygium - Pinguecula - Subconjunctival hemorrhage|
|Sclera and cornea||Scleritis - Keratitis - Corneal ulcer - Snow blindness - Thygeson's superficial punctate keratopathy - Fuchs' dystrophy - Keratoconus - Keratoconjunctivitis sicca - Arc eye - Keratoconjunctivitis - Corneal neovascularization - Kayser-Fleischer ring - Arcus senilis - Band keratopathy|
|Iris and ciliary body||Iritis - Uveitis - Iridocyclitis - Hyphema - Persistent pupillary membrane - Iridodialysis - Synechia|
|Lens||Cataract - Aphakia - Ectopia lentis|
|Choroid and retina||Retinitis - Chorioretinitis - Choroideremia - Retinal detachment - Retinoschisis - Retinopathy (Hypertensive retinopathy, Diabetic retinopathy, Retinopathy of prematurity) - Macular degeneration - Retinitis pigmentosa - Retinal haemorrhage - Central serous retinopathy - Macular edema - Epiretinal membrane - Macular pucker|
|Optic nerve and visual pathways||Optic neuritis - Papilledema - Optic atrophy - Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy|
accommodation and refraction
|Paralytic strabismus: Ophthalmoparesis - Progressive external ophthalmoplegia - Palsy (III, IV, VI) - Kearns-Sayre syndrome
Other strabismus: Esotropia/Exotropia - Hypertropia - Heterophoria (Esophoria, Exophoria) - Brown's syndrome - Duane syndrome
|Visual disturbances and blindness||Amblyopia - Leber's congenital amaurosis - Subjective (Asthenopia, Hemeralopia, Photophobia, Scintillating scotoma) - Diplopia - Scotoma - Anopsia (Binasal hemianopsia, Bitemporal hemianopsia, Homonymous hemianopsia, Quadrantanopia) - Color blindness (Achromatopsia) - Nyctalopia - Blindness/Low vision|
|Pupil||Anisocoria - Argyll Robertson pupil - Marcus Gunn pupil/Marcus Gunn phenomenon - Adie syndrome|
|Infectious diseases||Trachoma - Onchocerciasis|
|Other||Nystagmus - Miosis - Mydriasis - Glaucoma - Ocular hypertension - Floater - Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy - Red eye - Keratomycosis - Xerophthalmia - Aniridia|
|See also congenital|