Macular Degeneration: Overview
At Shenandoah Lasik & Cataract Center, Dr. John Stefano and his talented team offer personalized macular degeneration treatment options with personalized care. If you wish to learn more about the condition, or if you wish to learn whether you are a candidate for treatment, give us a call to schedule your consultation with Dr. Stefano. Dial 540-722-6200 today and our office will help you set up your appointment.
What Is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is a common condition in older adults and the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in people over the age of 65. Macular degeneration affects the macula, the part of the retina responsible for the crisp, detailed vision needed for reading or driving. As we age, the tissue in the eye responsible for central vision slowly begins to deteriorate, which can significantly affect a patient’s quality of life.
What Causes Macular Degeneration?
Many cases of macular degeneration are a result of aging and the natural deterioration of the eye tissue that is needed for clear vision. This disease can also be related to a genetic factor in patient who have a gene variant known as complement factor H. Nearly half of the blinding cases of macular degeneration are linked to this genetic deficiency.
Macular degeneration is most common in females and whites, and the risk for all patients increases with age. This condition is the leading cause of blindness in the US for patients over the age of 65. Over 14% of adults between the ages of 70 and 79 have been diagnosed with advanced or intermediate age-related macular degeneration. Other factors that may increase your risk of macular degeneration include:
- High fat diet
- Prolonged sun exposure
- High blood pressure
- Lighter eye color
- Side effect of certain drugs
Patients can minimize their risk of macular degeneration by practicing a healthy, active lifestyle and getting regular eye exams. It is important for all patients to exercise regularly, avoid smoking, and eat a balanced diet that includes foods known to preserve vision and prevent eye diseases.
What Are The Symptoms Of Macular Degeneration?
Patients with macular degeneration may notice gradual changes to their vision, including shadowy areas in the central vision, or fuzzy and distorted vision. These areas grow larger as the disease progresses, and can eventually turn into blind spots. Patients may also have difficulty seeing color and fine details.
If the disease progresses to the wet form, patients may also see straight lines as wavy. With wet macular degeneration, central vision loss can occur rapidly, sometimes in as little as a few days or weeks.
Dr. Stefano may be able to detect early signs of macular degeneration before any symptoms occur through a regular eye exam. Any signs of this condition can be further confirmed by testing your central vision with an Amsler grid test. Regular eye exams are important in detecting macular degeneration and other serious eye conditions as early as possible, so that permanent side effects can be avoided.
How Many Different Types Of Macular Degenration Are There?
Macular degeneration can be classified as either wet (neovascular) or dry (non-neovascular). Dry macular degeneration is the more common diagnosis, and is considered to be an early stage of the disease. This type of the disease usually develops as a result of aging and thinning of macular tissues and the depositing of pigment within the macula.
Only about 10% of patients see their condition progress to the more advanced and damaging wet macular degeneration. In wet macular degeneration, new blood vessels develop beneath the retina and cause a leakage of blood and fluid. This leakage can lead to permanent damages in the central vision and the creation of blind spots. Although less common, wet macular degeneration accounts for 90% of the blindness caused by all cases of this condition.
How Is Macular Degeneration Diagnosed?
Macular degeneration can be diagnosed with several types of eye exams. Most commonly, Dr. Stefano will examine the back of your eye after dilating it with eye drops. If drusen - a fluid or blood that can form under the retina - is present, it may indicate macular degeneration. Simple vision tests that may make it difficult for patients with macular degeneration to determine whether lines are faded, distorted, or straight can also be a tool to help diagnose this condition.
Other tests may involve the use of injected dye into the body and the use of special cameras to determine retinal changes in the eye. Dr. Stefano will be happy to determine during your first consultation which type of test is suitable for you.
What Happens If I Leave Macular Degeneration Untreated?
Although macular degeneration results from the natural aging process, it’s important to get it treated once diagnosed. Even in the early stages of this condition, dry macular degeneration can quickly progress into wet macular degeneration, leading to vision loss. It can take an average of five to ten years for macular generation to progress into its advanced stage, but this can be dangerous for patients. In its advanced stages, macular degeneration may lead to vision loss beyond correction, and patients can be considered legally blind and unable to drive.
We highly recommend not leaving macular degeneration untreated due to the fact that if your condition gets worse enough, there may not be alternative ways to restore your vision or prevent it from worsening.
Macular Degeneration Treatment
While there is no cure for macular degeneration, there are several treatment options available to help patients manage this condition and preserve their vision. The best treatment option for each patient depends on the severity and type of the condition, as well as how much, if any, permanent vision loss has occurred.
Intraocular injections of Avastin, Lucentis and Macugen are often successful in stopping abnormal blood vessel growth in wet macular degeneration. These FDA-approved medications are injected into the vitreous of the eye on a monthly basis to control the damaging effects of wet macular degeneration.
Photodynamic therapy is also effective in removing newly developing abnormal blood vessels that are characteristic of wet macular degeneration. Many patients also benefit from vitamin and mineral supplements, which can clear out toxic substances that may build up.
“I have always been treated professionally and with kindness since my lasik surgery in 2000. I would and have recommended this practice to others.”
How Long Will It Take To Recover from Macular Degeneration Treatment?
The recovery period may vary from patient to patient, but typically, patients can fully recover within two to six weeks after their treatment. This timeline can apply to both treatments with injections or with photodynamic therapy.
What Side Effects Come with Macular Degeneration Treatment?
Although the procedures we use to treat macular degeneration are FDA-approved, patients may experience some common side effects post-surgery that can include the following:
- Spotty vision
- Blurred vision
- Redness of the eye
- Light sensitivity
Complications from this procedure may arise during recovery. These risks can include:
- Infection of the eye
- Inflammation of the eye
- Bleeding in the eye
- Retinal detachment
Despite these risks, Dr. Stefano draws upon his nearly two decades of experience in ophthalmic surgery to give patients the most precise, high-quality treatment possible. By prioritizing patient comfort and safety during each procedure, Dr. Stefano can help patients who undergo macular degeneration treatment avoid serious complications and manage their side effects during recovery.
Call Dr. Stefano For Macular Degeneration Treatment In Winchester!
It is essential for patients with macular degeneration, wet or dry, to seek continuous medical treatment to manage their condition and prevent permanent vision loss from occurring. Dr. John A. Stefano has extensive experience in the treatment of these conditions, and can offer patients the latest, most advanced treatments to help preserve your vision and your overall quality of life. To learn more about our services, call 540-722-6200 to schedule an appointment in our Winchester, VA office. Or, you can fill out the form in our contact page. Our practice looks forward to serving you!