What will happen if I have macular degeneration?
This really does depend on the type and the severity of the macular degeneration. If you are diagnosed with dry macular degeneration then the chances are nothing will be done and the condition will be monitored by your optometrist.
However, if you present to your opticians with a sudden profound loss of vision which is distorted, you are almost certain to be referred to an eye casualty immediately. If this has happened you are likely to have wet macular degeneration. Your optician may put drops in your eye to dilate your pupils (black part of your eye) so they can get a better view of the macula. He/she will also use an Amsler chart which is basically a grid pattern which helps identify the distorted part of your vision.
Once you have been referred to the hospital your ophthalmologist will most likely perform a Fluorescein Angiography.
This is a test that helps the surgeon distinguish between the dry and wet forms of the condition, as it shows up any blood vessels that are leaking.
- A dye is injected into your arm and once in your bloodstream it eventually works its way to the blood vessels in your eye.
- Once the dye has reached your retinal (macula) blood vessels, photographs are taken with a flashing blue light which helps show up the leakages.
Treatments/management of Dry Macular Degeneration
There are no treatments for dry macular degeneration as it really is just natural wear and tear of your eye. In the same way that you cannot treat wrinkles as you get older so you cannot treat the natural ageing process of your macula. It is just a case of managing the condition and the following are the typical strategies:
- Stronger glasses will help for near vision tasks: This will mean when you are reading you will have to hold the book closer to your face.
- Increase the light levels: When doing close tasks ensure that you have a bright, high-quality light source, preferably positioned behind the shoulder shining onto the page or whatever task it is you are doing.
- Magnifiers/low vision aids: As the condition progresses your optician/ophthalmologist is likely to refer you to a low vision clinic at the hospital. Here you will be given various low vision aids which can help greatly.
- Supplementary Vitamins: You may be recommended to take supplements as there is evidence to suggest they may slow /stop the progression of the condition. They do however NOT improve your vision.
- Regular Eye tests: It is extremely important that you have regular eye examinations with your optician to monitor the progression of the condition and also to check it does not develop into the wet form of macular degeneration.
Treatments of Wet Macular Degeneration
Providing you seek medical advice promptly you may be able to treat wet macular degeneration with varying results. The 2 main types of treatment are Photodynamic therapy and Anti VEGF treatment:
This can treat wet macular degeneration with varying results and there are no guarantees. A drug (verteporfin) is injected into your arm (similar to what happens in Fluorescein Angiography) and it passes through your body until it reaches the blood vessels in your eye. The drug is attracted to the surface of the new leaky blood vessels and attaches itself to them. The Ophthalmologist will then focus a laser at the new blood vessels which will activate the drug. The activated drug will then destroy the new blood vessels and stop them growing further so reducing the chance of further loss of vision.
Photodynamic therapy is available on the NHS and may require multiple treatments.
Anti-VEGF treatment: Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor treatment
The Anti –VEGF is a recent development in treating wet macular degeneration and it is far more likely to be successful if the condition is caught early.
During the treatment, a drug is injected into your Vitreous (jelly part in the centre of your eye). This drug acts on the abnormal leaking blood vessels and stops them from growing any further. The drug deactivates a protein that is released as the new vessels are growing. This protein is what stimulates the new vessels to grow. It can in some instances not only stop the advancement of the condition but actually improve the condition and vision.
Anti-VEGF is available on the NHS and requires multiple treatments.
This information is provided purely as a guide and in no way constitutes medical advice. If you are in doubt about the health of your eyes you should consult your doctor or optometrist.