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What Is Macular Degeneration

MACULAR DEGENERATION: An eye condition in which the macula is damaged, often causing loss of central vision. (The macula is the most sensitive area in the retina responsible for central and detail vision.)

Macular DegenerationTYPES: "Dry form" - usually progresses slowly and may cause central vision loss. "Wet" form – a rarer, and more severe type which may progress rapidly causing significant central vision loss.

WHO GETS IT: Most common in people over 60; but can appear as early as age 40. Macular degeneration is the most common cause of severe vision loss among people over 65, and, as life expectancy increases, the disease is becoming an increasingly significant problem.

CAUSES: Not certain. 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: Not certain. Some steps may help:
Regular eye exams by your eye doctor who is specially trained to detect many vision-threatening conditions even before you develop symptoms. The earlier problems are detected, the better the chance of preventing vision loss.

Protection from UV-A and UV-B rays - Some studies have suggested that prolonged or frequent exposure to UV-A and UV-B rays may be a factor in macular degeneration and other eye conditions, so always wear sunglasses that block 99 to 100% of UV rays when outdoors.

Proper nutrition - An important research study, the Age–Related Eye Disease Study, showed that one group of macular degeneration patients—those who are at high risk for developing advanced AMD—may be helped by taking supplements containing antioxidants and zinc. In this study, patients in this high–risk group lowered their risk by about 25 percent when treated with high–doses of both zinc and antioxidants.

The AREDS supplements benefited patients with either form of AMD (wet or dry). In general, the supplements appeared safe when taken for the duration of the study. Patients with AMD should consult with their eye doctor to discuss how the study findings apply to their specific situation.

TREATMENT: "Dry" form - usually none, although antioxidant vitamins have been shown to decrease rates of progression in certain patients. Low vision rehabilitation can help those with significant vision loss to maintain excellent quality of life.

"Wet" form - Avastin or Lucentis injections have been shown to be beneficial in some cases. In addition, low vision rehabilitation for those with vision loss helps maximize use of existing vision.

UNPROVEN TREATMENTS: Be wary of any treatment that promises to restore vision, or 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 doctor to ensure they are safe and won't interfere with timely and effective treatment of any 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. At Vantage Eye Center our retinal specialists participate in many of the clinical studies through our affiliation with Stanford University. In addition, we have the most modern techniques available for treating macular degeneration including Avastin and Lucentis therapy.

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 doctor can arrange rehabilitation or refer you to organizations that can help.

SUPPORT: Adjusting to vision loss can be difficult at first. Your eye doctor 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 doctor is your best resource for any eye-care question or need.
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Bill PayVantage Eye Center: With two offices in Monterey, and an office and Surgery Center in Salinas, Vantage Eye Center is the Central Coast's most comprehensive eye care facility.


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