5 Facts About Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration
As America’s population ages, you may hear a lot about age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness and vision impairment in those 60 years and older. While most have the milder form known as dry AMD, 10% have the more severe wet form of AMD, comprising 90% of resulting blindness.
AMD is an incurable disease that affects the center of the retina, also known as the macula. The retina is an ultra-thin tissue layer that lines the back wall of the eye and converts light into electrical signals, enabling sight. The macula specifically controls our central vision. AMD weakens the macula and reduces its functionality, which can cause blurry vision, visual distortions (straight lines appearing wavy), dark areas appearing in the central field of vision, and loss of central vision. Generally, peripheral vision remains unaffected with AMD.
AMD is a progressive disease. In the earlier stages of dry AMD, there may be no signs or symptoms, with any vision loss being slow and gradual. However, with wet AMD, vision loss can be sudden and rapid. For your best chances at preserving your vision with wet AMD, you must monitor and alert your retina specialist about any vision changes. Here, we’ve provided some helpful wet AMD facts, including symptoms and preventive measures.
Fact #1: Wet AMD is Characterized by Neovascularization
A tell-tale sign of wet AMD is neovascularization, in which abnormal, fragile blood vessels grow under the retina. These new vessels leak fluid or bleed into the macula (hence the “wet” nomenclature), causing swelling, bleeding, and visual distortions. It may also cause severe, permanent central vision loss, which can be sudden and more noticeable.
Fact #2: Wet AMD Vision Loss Can Cause Visual Hallucinations
People with conditions causing vision loss, including more than 12% with AMD, may develop Charles Bonnet Syndrome, an incurable, uncontrollable disorder. It involves visual hallucinations developing, ranging from simple, bright-colored patterns (or unformed hallucinations) to more complicated, non-existent objects (formed hallucinations). While it may develop in anyone, it’s more common in patients 80 years or older.
Fact #3: Smoking Is a Major Risk Factor for Wet AMD
While some wet AMD risk factors, such as age or race, are uncontrollable, others can be managed. The biggest controllable risk factor for wet AMD is smoking, including all tobacco types, as well as regular and secondhand exposure. It’s been shown that 20 years after quitting smoking, AMD development risk was the same as for nonsmokers.
Fact #4: Wet AMD Is Treatable With Anti-VEGF Injections
Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) medications, including Avastin® (bevacizumab), Lucentis® (ranibizumab), and Eylea® (aflibercept), are considered the standard of care for wet AMD and other retinal conditions. They work by stopping proteins that trigger neovascularization and may improve vision in 30% of patients while stabilizing vision in 90%. Quick and painless, you’re first numbed with special eye drops, and anti-VEGF medications are injected directly into your eye’s vitreous.
Fact #5: Lifestyle Changes Can Reduce Wet AMD Development Risks
Besides smoking, certain preventive measures may slow wet AMD progression and help maintain your central vision. Among these are:
- Ensuring underlying conditions are properly managed
- Reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption
- Engaging in daily physical activity
- Maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI)
- Shielding your eyes from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays exposure with sunglasses and hats
- Monitoring your daily vision at home with an Amsler grid, a simple paper chart
- Consuming a healthy diet
Learn the Facts About Wet AMD
Wet age-related macular degeneration is a severe condition, requiring regular monitoring. The more information you have, the sooner you can alert your ophthalmologist, allowing them to diagnose and begin vision-saving treatment. Should you suspect or have wet AMD, or have questions, we encourage you to contact Retina Group of Florida today.