What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is a progressive, sight-limiting condition in which the delicate nerves in the back of the inside of the eye begin to deteriorate.  This leads to reduced central vision, but spares all of a person’s peripheral or side vision.

Because ARMD sufferers still have good peripheral vision, they may notice that they can sometimes see small things, like a coin dropped on the floor, but they may not be able to see a person’s face when looking directly at them.  Often, people with ARMD will turn their heads or look to the side when gazing at someone, to make the most of their side vision capabilities.

There are two main types of ARMD: Dry and Wet.

Dry Macular Degeneration

Dry ARMD, also known as non-exudative macular degeneration, is characterized by development of drusen, an abnormal accumulation of macular waste products that are naturally produced by the eye’s specialized nerve cells.  Drusen, which can be seen by an eye doctor during a dilated eye examination, is normally removed by special types of cells located just below the retina, known as retinal pigment epithelium.  But if these cells fail to keep the macula clean, waste products will begin to collect and accumulate.

One theory about how drusen impacts vision is that it may form a barrier against the blood supply to the macula, leading to degeneration of rod and cone cells, causing progressive visual loss.  Although drusen is present in Dry Macular Degeneration, the macula is not leaking fluid, proteins, cellular debris or blood, hence the term “dry.”

Wet Macular Degeneration

Wet ARMD is a progression of the dry type of the disease.  It has many of the characteristics of Dry ARMD, but it also includes the development of new abnormal blood vessels below the macula, as well as the accumulation of fluid and cellular debris called exudates.

These new blood vessels are very fragile and can rupture spontaneously, leading to bleeding below the macula, or even inside or on the retina and macula itself.  This rupture of blood vessels can cause profound vision loss.

The treatment of Wet ARMD aims to stop the leaky blood vessels in the eye through a series of eye injections.  In many cases, vision does not improve from the injections, but they can prevent vision from worsening.

Help for Macular Degeneration sufferers

Dr. Bissell’s specialized eyeglasses have helped many patients with Macular Degeneration see better.  The glasses help expand the area of the retina used for seeing, so the healthier parts can help compensate for the diseased portions.

All it takes to find out whether a patient might be a good candidate for Dr. Bissell’s help is a free, no-obligation 15-minute phone consultation.

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