Macular degeneration is a multifactorial condition with a strong genetic component that is influenced by environmental factors. Macular degeneration is a progressive and bilateral eye disorder that damages the center of the retina, which is called the macula. This condition makes it difficult to see fine details straight ahead. The retina is the layer of tissue at the back of the inner eye. It changes light and images that enter the eye into nerve signals that are sent to the brain. The macula is the part of the retina that makes our vision sharper and more detailed. Macular degeneration is caused by damage to the area around blood vessels that supply the macula.
If you have Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), your eye doctor may recommend that you check your vision every day on an Amsler grid. The Amsler grid will record the slow degeneration of the macula and your vision. If therapy is begun before the disease reaches the end stage, then vision loss may be stabilized in 75% of cases. This is based on subjective visual acuity testing by pervious investigators using microcurrent therapy. This is a progressive disease, meaning it will likely not get better with time.
Awareness of symptoms by using the Amsler grid and clinical monitoring by an eye doctor are not all that is needed in following an early diagnosed patient. Genetic testing can help determine those that need to be followed more closely. (See Genetic Link)
Age related macular degeneration (ARMD) is the major cause of visual impairment and blindness in the United States in patients over 65 years of age.1 7.3 million people in the United States have early ARMD and 1.8 million people have advanced ARMD. Between the ages of 75-85, some 28% of the population has some degree of ARMD. At present there is no therapy within the standard of care except taking oral vitamins for the early (dry stage) of ARMD.
With patients who have ARMD in one eye eventually the other eye will become affected. As we age, the burden of caring for patients who have significant sight impairment can be financially difficult, not to mention the personal depression that accompanies the loss of individual freedom for those living by themselves. In fact, it is possible patients will need daily assistance for all activities. Furthermore, even a small amount of vision loss can impair function and increase the risk of falls and injuries. These patients are dependent upon hand magnifiers and other visual aids as well as families, friends and caregivers. What rehabilitative therapies are available to help these patients? Ocuvite Vitamins, commercially sold by major pharmaceutical companies, slow the progression of ARMD only 25% of the time. Vitamins will not reverse your vision loss.
Micro-current therapy may help stabilize your vision loss in the majority of patients while in the dry stage of the disease. Those people that advance to the late stage are described as having bleeding around the macula. This is also referred to as the wet stage of macular degeneration. As one can imagine, the vision may worsen at this time. There are FDA approved therapies that help stop the hemorrhaging, but the vision is difficult to restore to where the level was in the early dry stage. The chances of significant visual improvement in the “wet stage” diminish with time. Normally, a large number of ARMD patients present when vision loss has already occurred. Routine eye examinations may allow the patient to be diagnosed early. Treatment options such as microcurrent therapy and a customized nutritional protocol can then be offered more effectively.
1 Quillen D.A., Common Causes of Visual Loss in Elderly Patients. American Family Physician – 1999 July; 60 (1) 99-108.