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Macular degeneration is a disease that causes blindness if left untreated. That alone is enough to make it worthwhile to get macular degeneration screenings on a regular basis. However, everyone doesn't need to do so on the same schedule. Factors such as age, genetics, and other risks determine how often these screenings need to be done.
It is the leading cause of vision loss in the United States, making it an even more widespread problem than glaucoma or cataracts. As its name says, it is the degeneration of the macula, which is the central part of the retina at the back of the eye. The retina is what turns the perception of light into signals that the brain can understand.
In most cases, this disease is associated with advancing age. Therefore, it is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration or AMD. This, however, is a bit misleading because it causes people to think they don't need to be concerned until they are quite elderly. In reality, the disease starts much sooner, and by the time vision loss is obvious to the patient, it has been progressing for years.
The first step is to have an annual eye exam. Those of advancing age should be extra-sure to do this. Exams allow the disease to be spotted – and treated – in its early stages. The type of AMD will determine which treatments are used.
This version is called "wet" because it involves leaking blood vessels in the eye. For many years, there was no serious treatment for it. Recently, though, laser and other therapies have been developed or improved. Lasers are used to seal the leaky vessels, while drugs like anti-VEGF formulas. The drugs help prevent the growth of new unhealthy blood vessels in the retinal area.
There is still no cure for dry AMD, so therapy focuses on a diet consisting of eye-healthy foods. Antioxidants and other nutrients that support healthy blood vessel growth and general eye health are the foundation of this approach. It can begin as soon as AMD is diagnosed or even be used to try to prevent the disease from ever happening.
With either form of the condition, it's important to keep going for exams at your West Des Moines IA optometrist's office. This will let you and your doctor know whether the treatments are working or if anything about it needs to be tweaked.
To learn more about AMD and its treatments, or to get a full eye exam, contact us here at Huseman Eye Care in Des Moines, IA. We're an optometrist in Des Moines with doctors that care about your overall eye health.