Prevent Blindness America has designated February 2011 as National Age Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month. Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is the leading cause of visual impairment and blindness in Americans older than 50, affecting more than two million people. Although ARMD is incurable, there are new treatments that can at a minimum prevent further vision loss from the disease and in many cases actually help recover lost vision.
ARMD causes central vision to blur, but leaves peripheral vision intact. It is progressive and painless. There are two types of ARMD: dry and wet. Approximately 90 percent of people with ARMD have the dry form which results in gradual vision loss. Although only 10 percent of people with ARMD have the wet form, it generally progresses much quicker than the dry form. Wet AMD is characterized by the growth of abnormal retinal blood vessels that leak blood or fluid, causing rapid and severe central vision loss.
Patients can help reduce the risk of developing ARMD by not smoking as well as working to eat a heart-healthy diet rich in fish, fruit and green leafy vegetables, avoiding foods with trans fats, exercising and controlling blood pressure and weight.
We are fortunate to be able to offer Anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) drugs that inhibit the development of unwanted blood vessels that cause wet ARMD as these agents are effective in helping to prevent further visual loss and even improve vision.
Patients older than 50 are encouraged to have a comprehensive, dilated eye examination every one to two years to ensure that ARMD is detected and treated early. The key to successful treatment is early detection and intervention. We are fortunate to have Scott Steidl, M.D. and Jackie Nguyen, M.D. at Eyecare Medical Group in Portland, Maine as both are fellowship trained in Diseases & Surgery of the Retina and specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of Macular Degeneration.