The Macular Degeneration Age , known as DMAE , is an eye disease that affects a specific area of the retina, the macula , and its main consequence is the progressive loss of central vision , one that allows precision when fix your sight and see clearly near objects. Thus, suffering from this disease in an advanced state could allow, for example, the numbers of a clock to be seen when consulting the time, but, on the contrary, the hands could not be clearly detected when occupying the central area of vision.
Macular degeneration is irreversible and constitutes the most frequent cause of vision loss in patients over 50 years of age in developed countries. In Spain, the prevalence of the disease is 13% in people over 65, while in people over 75 it reaches 30%. In some cases, it progresses so slowly that people do not notice any change in their vision, as it is not painful . In other cases, the disease progresses more rapidly and can cause loss of vision in both eyes.
The symptoms that can warn about the existence of this pathology are: blurred vision, dark areas, distortion of central vision or even total loss of it . Generally, this medical condition does not affect peripheral vision.
The Dra . Mercè Piggy, head of the Ophthalmology Department of the University Hospital General de Catalunya and the Hospital Universitari Sagrat Cor , belonging to QuirónSalud ( @quironsalud ) explains that there are two types of AMD: atrophic or dry and exudative or wet .
- Atrophic or dry: It is the most frequent, occurring in 90% of cases. It has a slow evolution, in which the macula loses nerve cells that do not regenerate. The disease does not usually give symptoms, it usually begins in one eye, and later appears on the contralateral, causing the patient not to notice the disease, unless the healthy eye is covered when the other is already sick.
- Exudative or wet: It only affects 10% of cases. It causes loss of central vision very quickly due to the appearance of new tissue under the deepest layers of the retina that grows, exudes and can bleed.
Patients with dry AMD can go wet and vice versa. In both cases, early diagnosis is essential , since treatment is more effective at the earliest stage and can improve disease progression. For this reason, from the age of 40 it is important to go to the ophthalmologist to carry out periodic vision reviews and be alert to changes in vision.
The test called Amsler’s Grid can help detect the first symptoms. It consists of the observation of a simple grid that the patient must alternately look with each eye, always directing the gaze to the center. It is about checking if the lines are sharp, straight and without any distortion.
If there are symptoms, other tests, such as an optical coherence tomography (OCT) that confirm the existence of AMD, the exact type in question and degree of disease progression, will have to be carried out, thus initiating the appropriate treatment in each case.
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As Dr. Mercè Guarro emphasizes, the specialists in charge of treating AMD are ophthalmologists specialized in retina or macula . For dry AMD, there is no specific treatment and antioxidant vitamin supplements are often given to slow the progression of the disease. Meanwhile, for wet AMD, various drugs are available to slow the growth of blood vessels and stop the evolution of the disease. These drugs are administered in the form of intravitreal injections.
“They are very effective treatments to control the disease, but they need to be administered very strictly and controlled by a retinologist to achieve long-term visual improvement,” says the QuirónSalud specialist.
Can AMD occur? The Dra. Laura Sararols , Head of Ophthalmology at the Hospital Universitari Catalunya General notes that “not possible” because “the main risk factor is age or genetic predisposition.” Of course, it points out that there are other factors that have been related to this pathology, such as tobacco consumption , obesity , high blood pressure , high levels of lipids and cholesterol , diabetes mellitus , cardiovascular diseases or solar radiation .
The recommendation of this specialist to minimize those factors that can increase the risk of suffering AMD or accelerate the process of macular degeneration is “lead a healthy life with a balanced diet and exercise regularly , keep good control of underlying pathologies and undergo periodic eye exams starting at age 50. ”