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There are two types of macular degeneration. Dry and wet. The dry type can lead to bad vision loss, but the wet type is the one that can quickly do so. It is the wet kind where most of the treatment modalities are focused. With the wet macular degeneration, abnormal blood vessels find their way underneath the retina and begin to leak. There’s a chemical known as vascular endothelial growth factor that is released around these blood vessels. Special medications can be given to the eye that inhibit that growth factor and allow those blood vessels to regress, to go away, so that the bleeding and the leakiness will resolve. The retina then can assume a more normal configuration. When I was in training, these medicines didn’t exist. It’s been one of the most dramatic improvements in healthcare in general since I started medicine.
In terms of ways to try to prevent the chance of having vision loss from macular degeneration, adjustable lifestyle changes would be things like refraining from smoking, exercise, and eating a lot of leafy green vegetables. For patients with early signs of macular degeneration, there are some vitamin preparations that have been shown to decrease the chance of vision loss. These special vitamins under the name of AREDs 2 include vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, Lutein, and zeaxanthin. Patients who have been found to be at risk of macular degeneration may be given a special grid to look at at least weekly to identify any changes in their vision. Patients may notice a waviness to lines or maybe even missing spots when viewing that grid. The grids called an Amsler grid and you’re ophthalmologist will go over that with you.
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