Researchers like Kang Zhang have identified two distinct types of age-related macular degeneration (AMD): dry and wet. Both types affect the macula of your eye, which is an area in the center-back of the retina that translates what you are seeing into a message that can be sent to your brain and processed. The dry type usually worsens slowly and consists of fatty deposits building up in the macula, and it can lead to the wet type if unchecked. The wet type gets worse much faster and involves the spontaneous generation of unnecessary, obstructive blood vessels beneath the macula.
Treatment for Dry AMD
If you are a non-smoker, eye doctors may prescribe a simple supplement pill that includes beta-carotene, zinc, copper, and vitamins C and E. This cocktail seems to be less safe in smokers, so its updated version nixes the beta-carotene and adds in a carotenoid alcohol called zeaxanthin and a carotenoid vitamin called lutein. These vitamin mixtures are not a cure, but they could slow down the pace of dry AMD. If you have very advanced dry AMD, you might be a candidate for having a tiny telescope placed in your eye.
Treatment for Wet AMD
A frequent prescription for wet AMD suppresses your body’s vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which helps slow down or prevent the growth of extra blood vessels. The medication is injected into the patient’s eye by their doctor and lasts about a month before needing to be repeated. Patient reactions to this treatment vary, but other methods of treating wet AMD do exist. These other options involve laser surgery that destroys the extra blood vessels disrupting your vision.
Treatment for Both Types of AMD
Technology is a wondrous thing these days. An eye doctor can prescribe certain vision aids to a person with AMD to help them see objects more clearly. Examples include special glasses-mounted telescopes and portable tablet-like electronic magnifiers. Lifestyle changes can be a huge help in slowing AMD down. The main actions you can take include quitting smoking, wearing sunglasses, eating healthier, and managing your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
While AMD may not be the leading cause of total blindness–that title belongs to diabetic retinopathy–it is the top cause of general vision loss in the United States. It affects around 10 million Americans, and it has no known cure. However, it can be treated, slowed, and prevented. In some cases, it could even be slightly reversed. Don’t lose hope, and always talk to your eye doctor about noticeable changes in your vision.