Macular Degeneration In San Diego, CA
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in patients ages 65 and older. The board-certified ophthalmologists at American Eye Associates and California Retina Associates are dedicated to ensuring you can see clearly and live comfortably with the most up-to-date diagnostic services and treatments. We are proud to offer treatment for macular degeneration to men and women in San Diego, Chula Vista, and the neighboring communities of Imperial County, California.
The macula is the part of the retina responsible for color vision and visual acuity — particularly central vision, which is necessary for many everyday tasks like reading or driving. Macular degeneration, sometimes called age-related macular degeneration or AMD, is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 65.
The eye doctors at American Eye Associates and California Eye Associates are internationally recognized for their work treating conditions affecting the retina. During routine retinal exams, we can often detect early signs of macular degeneration and, while there is no cure for this disorder, prompt treatment can be very effective at delaying its progression. Because there is no cure, early detection, and prompt intervention are essential for preventing a complete loss of vision.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
Symptoms of macular degeneration may include:
- Difficulties adapting to low light levels or the need for increasingly bright light when doing close-up work
- Difficulties recognizing faces
- A decrease in the brightness of colors
- Blurry, blind or distorted spots in your central vision
- Generally hazy or unclear vision
The vision loss caused by macular degeneration is usually slow and painless. However, sudden vision loss can be caused by certain types of this disorder.
Does Macular Degeneration always occur in both eyes?
It is possible to develop AMD in only one eye, but as it progresses it will usually affect both eyes. Once AMD develops in one eye, the person is more likely to develop it in the other eye than someone who does not have AMD in either eye.
Types of Macular Degeneration
There are two types of macular degeneration.
Dry macular degeneration is the more common type, affecting approximately 80 to 90 percent of people with the disease. In these cases, small deposits called drusen to develop on the retina, below the macula, causing it to deteriorate over time.
Wet macular degeneration is much less common but more likely to cause severe vision loss. In these cases, abnormal blood vessels beneath the retina grow toward the macula and bleed or leak fluid, which can damage the macula and pull it away from its base.
What are the stages of Macular Degeneration?
The progression of macular degeneration differs in different patients. There are three stages of this eye disease:
- Early-stage AMD — This features medium-sized drusen deposits and no pigment changes. No loss of vision.
- Intermediate AMD — Large drusen and/or pigment changes. There may mild vision loss, but most people don’t experience any problems.
- Late-state AMD — Dry or wet macular degeneration that causes vision loss.
Should I make lifestyle changes if I have Macular Degeneration?
That depends on the stage. If you have early-stage AMD you won’t have any loss of vision yet. Treatment may be able to delay the progression of the disease to a degree that you can live basically the way you have.
But if you are experiencing some blurry vision and loss of color, you may begin to want to make changes in your home. Here are some steps that can help around the house:
- Brighten your living spaces by increasing overhead lighting and adding under-cabinet lighting. Changing to different types of light bulbs could be beneficial.
- Reduce glare with blinds and curtains.
- Rearrange furniture that can be an impedance when moving between rooms.
- Remove area rugs or tack or tape them down.
- In the bathroom try and use contrasting colors to make it easier to differentiate between the tub, toilet, and sink.
- Increase lighting on any stairs and mark the top and bottom steps with colors.
- Install handrails in bathrooms and in stairwells.
The team at American Eye Associates and California Retinal Associates will help you navigate possible changes from driving to using a computer. These changes, as you would expect, are unique to each patient.
Risk factors for Macular Degeneration
Your risk for macular degeneration is significantly increased if you are a smoker, but genetics, obesity, high blood pressure and the use of some drugs may also increase your risk.
Does Macular Degeneration always lead to blindness?
Age-related macular degeneration usually produces a slow, painless loss of vision. The vision loss is not as severe in the dry form compared to the wet form. Vision loss generally begins in the center of the patient’s vision. Macular degeneration involves vision loss, but not usually complete blindness. Due to the central vision that is lost, however, advanced macular degeneration patients are considered to be legally blind.
Macular Degeneration treatment
There is currently no macular degeneration treatment that is proven to cure the disease. However, the condition can be managed through lifestyle changes and other habits. There are also medical therapies and other interventions that can help preserve vision in advanced cases of AMD.
Recommended for some cases of wet AMD, anti-VEGF drugs are designed to inhibit the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the macula.
What are anti-VEGF drugs?
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a protein produced by cells in your body. VEGF produces new blood vessels when your body needs them. Problems come when the cells produce too much VEGF. This can lead to the development of abnormal blood vessels in your eye. These abnormal blood vessels damage your eye and harm your vision. This is wet AMD.
Anti-VEGF drugs block VEGF, slowing the growth of blood vessels in the eye. This slows or stops damage caused by these abnormal blood vessels and slows down the vision loss of AMD.
Beyond AMD, anti-VEGF drugs are used to treat macular edema, diabetic retinopathy, and retinal vein occlusion.
What are the other anti-VEGF durgs and their side effects?
- Eylea®— Side effects affecting no more than 5 percent of patients include hemorrhage of the conjunctiva, eye pain, risk of cataract, vitreous detachment, vitreous floaters, and increased eye pressure.
- Lucentis® — Side effects include hemorrhage of the conjunctiva, floaters, eye pain, increased pressure, and inflammation of the eye. Rare but serious side effects are endophthalmitis, retinal detachment, retinal tear, increased eye pressure, and traumatic cataract.
- Macugen® — Macugen® is not used as often as the other drugs. Its side effects include eye inflammation, blurred vision, other changes in vision, cataracts, bleeding in the eye, swelling of the eye, eye discharge, irritation or discomfort of the eye, and spots in vision.
Macular holes are tears or breaks in the macula that can distort central vision. Unlike macular degeneration, macular holes can be treated.
Similar to macular degeneration and macular holes, a macular pucker is a condition that occurs when scar tissue forms on the macula.
At American Eye Associates and California Retina Associates, we offer a wide range of cutting-edge treatments, expert surgical techniques, and the latest diagnostic services that will help you live your most healthy and comfortable life. We are happy to offer ophthalmology services to men and women in San Diego, Chula Vista, and the surrounding areas of Imperial County, California. Contact us to schedule your one-on-one consultation with one of our expert ophthalmologists today.