Statistics show if you are a Caucasian smoker, at least 60 years old, with a family history of macular degeneration (MD), your risk of developing MD is higher. The National Eye Institute defines macular degeneration as a common eye condition that blurs your central vision. When you have blurry vision or see spots, you may have the beginning stages of MD. If you want to see your eye doctor for diagnosing and managing macular degeneration, here’s what you should know.
Below are the things that your ophthalmologist considers during the diagnosis of your MD:
Consultation. Expect your eye doctor to ask you some probing questions that will bring out your past or present symptoms. If you have dry MD, you may be asymptomatic, or you may simply complain about some distortion in your vision during the consultation. Your eye doctor may suspect neurovascular MD if you have dark patches, distorted vision, or blurring in your central vision. Late MD patients who have vision loss in both eyes usually experience hallucinations. Most patients will not tell their eye doctors about this unless they are asked about it.
Clinical assessment. Your eye doctor will test your visual acuity to see if you have an onset of MD. According to the National Eye Institute, a decrease in visual acuity could mean that you have scotoma or central distortion in your central vision. Your eye specialist will use the slit-lamp biomicroscopy to pinpoint retinal elevation or thickening, which is caused by neurovascular MD. To confirm the nature and presence of neurovascular MD, your eye specialist will subject you to fluorescein angiography. A special dye called sodium fluorescein will enter your veins. Then, your eye doctor will take photographs of your fundus.
If you have dry MD, you should take elevated doses of antioxidants and stop smoking. These may lower your risk of developing choroidal neovascularization (CNV). Although there are still no effective treatments for dry MD, options are available in treating and managing the symptoms of neurovascular MD. Here are some of them:
Laser treatment. Studies show that argon laser photocoagulation can prevent vision loss in patients with extrafoveal CNV due to MD. The aim of this treatment is to reduce the size of your scotoma and keep your central vision functional.
Verteporfin for PDT. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) infuses a photosensitizing drug called Verteporfin for 10 minutes into the blood vessels of the affected eye. Your eye specialist will then apply a diode laser at 689 nm on the retina, about 15 minutes after the Verteporfin infusion. You should avoid sun exposure for two days after your treatment. In case you have a history of porphyria or liver disease, Verteporfin is not for you.
Macular degeneration is a progressive eye condition that should be detected early. Research is still ongoing to find more effective ways to manage it. At Jarvis Vision Center, we are dedicated to helping our patients with MD from diagnosis to management. Please visit our clinic in Murray, Kentucky, for a walk-in consultation. You can also call us at 270-279-8540 if you want to schedule an appointment or ask questions about our diagnosis and management of macular degeneration.