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What You Need to Know About Macular Degeneration

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a condition that causes damage and loss of function of the central part of the retina called the macula.  AMD causes central vision loss for both near and far vision.  Unfortunately, AMD is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people 65 years of age and older.

There are two main types of AMD – Wet and Dry.  Ninety percent of patients who have AMD have the “dry” form.  Dry AMD causes gradual vision loss over many years.  Wet AMD is much less common, but much more aggressive and can cause acute vision loss over days to weeks.  Dry AMD can become wet at any point in time.

There is no cure for AMD.  Treatment options for AMD are intended to prevent future vision loss.  The most significant study regarding the treatment of dry AMD was the AREDS or Age Related Eye Disease Study.  Published in October of 2001, the National Eye Institute reported that people who have intermediate or advanced AMD benefit significantly by taking high doses of antioxidant/zinc supplements.  The AREDS formula includes daily doses of the following:

  • Vitamin C 500 mg
  • Vitamin E 400 IU
  • Beta-Carotene 15 mg
  • Zinc (as zinc oxide) 80 mg
  • Copper (as cupric oxide) 2 mg

AREDS formula vitamins are sold over the counter as Preservision or ICaps.  If you have a history of smoking, you should take the formulation without Beta-Carotene (or Vitamin A).  Beta-Carotene supplements may increase the risk for lung cancer in smokers.  At the time of the study, lutein was not as widely recognized as a critical antioxidant for the eyes. It was not tested in the AREDS study, but has been shown to be important.

It is safe to continue your daily multivitamin while taking the AREDS formula.  However, you should not take any additional vitamin A, C, E, zinc or copper.  Notify your primary doctor prior to starting the AREDS formula.

The Amsler Grid is an excellent screening tool that every patient with AMD should use on a regular basis.  Changes in the grid may indicate the beginning of Wet AMD which may require treatment to prevent future vision loss.

amd_gridHow to Use the Grid

  1. With your reading glasses on, hold the Amsler Grid at a distance that the chart is in focus.
  2. Cover one eye.
  3. Look at the dot in the center.
  4. Make sure all the lines are straight and the squares are present.
  5. Repeat with the other eye.
  6. Notify our office immediately of any changes in the grid.  It may save your vision!

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