Macular Degeneration – Patient Education Overview
Macular degeneration is an age-related disease of the eye involving the deterioration of the macula – the central part of the retina that lines the eye’s back wall and enables vision of fine details. Symptoms appear gradually starting with blurring or difficulty seeing in dim light as the macula cells die. Read more in our patient education guide.
There are two types of macular degeneration – wet and dry.
Dry Macular Degeneration
- More common type (90%)
- Causes central vision loss or a blind spot in the middle of the visual field
- Total blindness is not associated with this condition
- May not affect both eyes
- Caused by drusen (body byproducts) deposits
- Amount of deposits determines early, intermediate or advanced stages
Wet Macular Degeneration
- Started out as dry type
- Marked by leaky blood vessels in the back of the eye causing swelling
- Central vision loss
- More severe than dry type
Doctors Who Treat Macular Degeneration – Patient Education
It is prudent to have an eye examination annually as problems may go undetected by individuals in the early stages.
Ophthalmologist - A medical doctor specializing in eye health. Ophthalmologists examine the eye, perform surgical procedures and prescribe drugs and contact lenses.
Optometrist - Trained in optometry schools, these doctors specialize in eye health. Optometrists give eye exams, measure for contact lenses and make suggestions for visual aids when needed.
Retina Doctor - A medical doctor specializing in diseases of the retina and macula. Once macular degeneration is detected, a referral is given to consult with a Retina Doctor.
How to Prepare for Your Macular Degeneration Doctor Visit
Having made your appointment with a healthcare provider, there are certain actions that you need to take in order to maximize the benefit of your macular degeneration doctor visit and are listed in this patient education guide.
- Ask a friend or family member to transport you to and from the eye exam.
Your eyes will be dilated making driving impossible.
- Make a list to bring of any medications that are taken. Don’t forget to include vitamins and herbal supplements.
- Make a record of medical history and past illnesses.
- Bring a list of any eye problems that you have experienced.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Macular Degeneration
From your initial diagnosis throughout your treatment and care, you will have questions about your macular degeneration. Read our patient education guide for questions to discuss with your doctors so you can make informed decisions about your condition.
Question About My Diagnosis
- What does my diagnosis mean and what caused it? What type of macular degeneration do I have?
- Is my vision loss going to further deteriorate or can we stop the progression?
- Is my case severe? Will I go blind?
- What new symptoms can I expect?
- What should I notify you about? How often should I be checked?
- If it is in one eye, will I definitely get it in the other eye?
Questions About My Treatment
- What treatments are available for me? When can we start treatment and how long does it take?
- Is there a special diet that would help my condition?
- Are there foods that I should avoid with this treatment?
- Are there vitamins or supplements that can help my vision?
- Is there a surgical procedure that could restore my vision?
Questions About My Lifestyle & Family
- Does this condition run in families? If so, what can I do to prevent my children from getting it in the future?
- Does smoking affect my vision?
- What diet do you recommend? Can I drink alcoholic beverages or would it make my vision worse?
- Can I still drive? Can I still read?
- Are there devices or vision aids that can help me?
- Is there a support group I could join?
Tests or Labs to Diagnose Macular Degeneration – Patient Education
What is Normal/Abnormal?
|To determine whether macular degeneration is present||The patient is asked to view a chart with straight-line patterns.
|Patient sees lines as distorted, faded or broken in macular degeneration.|
| Ophthalmoscope Screening with Eye Dilation
|For doctor to be able to screen the back of the eye under magnification
|This test involves drops being placed in the eye to dilate the pupil.||If dry macular degeneration is present, there will be a blotchy or speckled appearance due to yellow deposits (drusen), which are metabolic by-products.|
| Optical Coherence Tomography
|To detect areas of retinal thinning or thickening to help screen for treatment efficacy or disease progression
|The patient places his/her chin on the chin rest, the forehead on the strap and each eye individually stares into the tube. The patient is directed to either look at the blinking light or look slightly away from the light depending on whether it is the nerve or the macula that is being studied.||Any abnormal or damaged tissues seen in the eye would be reason for further testing|
|Enables the doctor to see any blood vessel or retinal abnormalities like leaking or swelling of the retina
|This test involves colored dye being injected into an arm vein. The dye then travels to the eyes and emphasizes the blood vessels in the back of the eye which are then photographed with a special camera.||Abnormal findings show constriction of the blood vessels or areas where fluid may be leaking out|
Common Medications and Treatments for Macular Degeneration
The treatment for the two types of macular degeneration differs.
For Dry Macular Degeneration
How it Works
|Surgical||A telescopic lens is implanted in one eye to magnify visual fields. It works on both near and distance vision.|
|Medical||The medical treatment involves mainly a holistic approach of diet and lifestyle changes. While there is no treatment to cure macular degeneration, holistic therapy can stem the progression of the disease.The eye program involves:
If a patient is still smoking, a cessation program is recommended.
For Wet Macular Degeneration
How it Works
|Surgical|| Photocoagulation – A procedure in which abnormal, leaking blood vessels under the macula are destroyed using a high-energy laser beam.
Photodynamic Therapy – This processes involves Visudyne (verteporfin) being injected into an arm vein, which travels into the eye and collects in abnormal blood vessels. Then, abnormal, leaking blood vessels under the fovea (central part of the macula) are destroyed using a low-energy laser beam, which activates the injected drug. This procedure may not improve vision but retards the rate of vision loss.
|Medical||Medications are injected directly into the eye every four weeks to promote blood vessel shrinkage and absorption of fluid under the retina. Some recovery of vision has been reported.|