Macular Week 2017: Treatment for AMD and how to reduce your risk of getting it

As it’s Macular Week 2017 (26th June – 2nd July), here at Eyesite we’re helping the cause by raising awareness of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). This condition affects over 600,000 people in the UK and is the leading cause of vision loss.

With so many people living in the UK with Age-Related Macular Degeneration, it’s important that people are aware of the condition and how it can affect those who have it on a day-to-day basis. For more information, make sure you check out the Macular Society and discover more about the kind of help and support they offer.

Reducing your Risk of AMD

Generally speaking, leading as healthy a lifestyle as possible will help contribute to minimising your risk of developing AMD. This includes all aspects of lifestyle such as:

  • Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet – Ensuring your body gets the variety of types of food that it needs, but not over-indulging in fatty or sugary foods or lots of carbohydrates such as pasta, rice and bread.
  • Regular exercise – Taking moderate exercise helps to keep you at a healthy weight. A person with a BMI greater than 30 is 2.5 times more likely to develop AMD than one with a lower BMI.
  • Not smoking – Smoking can double your chances of developing AMD. This is because the retina has a high rate of oxygen consumption and anything that affects this oxygen delivery to the retina may affect your vision. Oxidative damage caused by smoking can contribute to AMD.
  • UV exposure – Results from research is inconclusive, but it’s suggested that excessive exposure to UV light, especially for those with lighter coloured eyes, can potentially increase chances of developing AMD. Wearing sunglasses even when the sun isn’t directly out will help reduce this. At Eyesite, we have a huge range of shades to choose from so check them out in your local branch today!

These are all really simple ways to help reduce the chances of developing Age-Related Macular Degeneration. An easy change to your lifestyle can make a huge difference when it comes to the risks of AMD, so make sure you consider what you can do today to help yourself! For more information on Age-Related Macular Degeneration, check out our conditions page.
Although reduction the risk of developing Age-Related Macular Degeneration does help in many cases, sometimes it reaches the point where treatment of developed AMD is required.


Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treatment

Macular Society fund research projects to try and find a cure for AMD. Currently, no cure has been found, but there are options available to help those with the condition.

Dry Macular Degeneration Treatment

With AMD affecting your central vision it can make typical everyday tasks more challenging. However, there are visual aids available to help reduce the impact that having AMD has on your life:

  • Books in large-print
  • Bright reading lights
  • Magnifying lenses
  • Screen-reading software for your computer/phone/tablet

All of the above can help minimise the impact of AMD and enable you to carry out your tasks like normal. It’s possible that you could also be referred to a low vision clinic, where staff can advise you on your options.
Another option to explore is altering your diet to include a higher amount of vitamins A, C and E. Also, substances called lutein and zeaxanthin can be incorporated. All of these may slow the progression of Age-Related Macular Degeneration and even reduce the chance of it developing into Wet AMD.
Foods that are naturally high in vitamins A, C and E are:

  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Oranges
  • Kiwis
  • Leafy green vegetables

The leafy green vegetables are also a good source of lutein as well as peas, mangoes and sweetcorn. For more detailed information on dietary changes, have a look at this Diet and Exercise factsheet put together by the Macular Society.

Wet Macular Degeneration Treatment

There are two key types of Wet AMD treatment:

  1. Anti-VEGF Medication
  2. Laser Surgery

Anti-VEGF Medication

This medication is injected into your eye using a thin needle, after local anaesthetic drops are given so you feel nothing. The medicine injected blocks the chemical that is responsible for the growth of new blood vessels. This prevents the condition from worsening.
Occasionally, this medication shrinks the blood vessels in the eye and can restore some of the sight previous lost by AMD. However, this isn’t always the case and sight is never totally restored.

Laser Surgery

There are a few different types of surgery, and you’ll be advised by a specialist as to which is the best option for you.
Photodynamic Therapy
This injects a light-sensitive medicine into a vein of your arm. This medicine attaches to the affected blood vessels in the macula. Then a laser is shone into your eye for about one minute which activates the drug and causes the medicine to destroy the affected vessels.
This treatment may be carried out every few months to monitor and control the development of affected blood vessels. It’s not recommended for everyone as it’s dependent on where the affected blood vessels are growing and the level of severity this is having on your macula.
Laser Photocoagulation
This is where a strong laser burns sections of the retina. This causes the sections to harden and stops the blood vessels moving to the macula. It’s carried out under local anaesthetic so there’s no pain. However, one side effect can be a black or grey patch developing in your vision, which is permanent.
If you’re thinking of this treatment, make sure you discuss it thoroughly with a doctor. One 1 in 7 are suitable for it and it’s not as effective as other forms of treatment.
This form of treatment has been offered in the past but the outcome can be inconsistent. It was tested in combination with anti-VEGF injections to see if it could reduce the number of injections needed. The early results seem encouraging but the long-term is still unknown. Radiotherapy may be offered to you as part of a clinical trial and you’ll be notified if you’re eligible for the treatment.
There are also two new types of surgery that have been developed in recent years:

  1. Lens Implantation – The lens of the eye is replaced with an artificial lens which is designed to enhance central vision.
  2. Macular Translocation – This is where the macula is moved to a healthier part of the eyeball which isn’t affected by any abnormal blood vessels.

These types of surgery aren’t readily available yet as they’re still in their earliest phases, but once more is learnt then they may become more accessible.
There is also research currently being carried out into how stem cell therapy can create new retinal cells, but again this is still in the trial phases. With the continued funding from the Macular Society, and donations from the public, these new avenues of research can continue to develop into the future.

If you have any questions about Age-Related Macular Degeneration, either for yourself or someone you know, check out the information readily available on the Macular Society website.
One final simple thing you can do to stay ahead of AMD is to attend regular eye examinations to monitor the health of your eyes and vision. Book an appointment for an eye exam today, or get in touch with a member of our Eyesite team.