Macular degeneration is a disease of the retina. The macula is the small, central portion of the retina, necessary for sharp, straight ahead vision. this is the part of the retina used for reading, for seeing street signs, or for recognizing faces at a distance. there are two basic forms of macular degeneration: “dry” and “wet”.
The “dry” form results in a very slow deterioration of central vision. About 90% of patients with macular degeneration have the “dry” form of the disease.
The “wet” form of macular degeneration is less common and tends to result in a more rapid loss of vision. “Wet” macular degeneration is caused by the formation of new, unhealthy blood vessels within the macula. These blood vessels often leak or bleed, and cause swelling of the macula which results in a sudden and severe loss of central vision. Recently two new medications have been shown to be helpful in the tratment of “wet” macular degeneration. These medicines, Avastin and Lucentis, are placed within the eye, and cause a shrinkage of the unhealthy blood vessels. Clinical experience with these medications has been very encouraging.
Most retinal specialists are now using a combination of these new medications and laser treatment to preserve vision in newly diagnosed “wet” macular degeneration patients. Unfortunately, these new treatments are effective only for new cases of “wet” macular degeneration. Patients with “dry” macular degeneration and those who have suffered visual loss in the past from “wet” macular degeneration are not helped by these new treatments. Patients with “dry” macular degeneration are best helped by the long-term use of antioxidant vitamins.
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