Recently a wonderful, new patient came for an eye evaluation. This new patient was referred because of a growing complaint of “blurry faces”. Most of the family felt it was “cataract surgery time” for this new patient. While cataract development played a small role in the entering complaint, it was actually more related to macular degeneration. More specifically, Age-Related Macular Degeneration or ARMD.
ARMD is a disease of the macula, the centered area of the retina. The retina is the light detecting tissue that lines the back of the eye, and the macula is a small, centered area in the retina directly responsible for what we see centrally in front of us. This type of vision is what we primarily use for activities like reading, writing, driving, cooking, and the appreciation of color to name just a few. Thus, when one complains of blurry faces, but not the area around the face, this is certainly an eye complaint that can indicate the strong possibility of macular degeneration or disease.
Various forms of macular degeneration exist for all ages including young people. But, ARMD occurs most commonly in those 50 to 60 years of age and older. The incidence for ARMD is growing, as evidenced by the National Eye Institute reporting that ARMD is a leading cause of vision loss in the U.S and is expected to double in cases by the year 2050.
ARMD can be divided into two forms, wet and dry. It is very important to know that neither type causes symptoms of eye pain, but more complaints of vision-oriented abnormalities. Wet ARMD occurs due to newly-formed, abnormal blood vessels leaking fluid to the macula. This fluid distorts the normal anatomy of the macula causing vision symptoms. Dry ARMD, conversely, does not involve the abnormal blood vessel growth and leaking fluid, but still is a form where the anatomy is distorted rendering vision loss. Although dry ARMD is not as devastating, both forms can lead to loss of vision and subsequent dramatic changes in lifestyle, like not being able to drive or difficulty seeing food when eating.
Those at risk include folks 60 years and above, tobacco users, and those with a family history of the disease. It is very important to note the risk factor of tobacco use. Reports have that smoking doubles the risk of ARMD! Lifestyle choices can help reduce the risk of ARMD such as not smoking (hope you’re getting the point!), a diet with plentiful green, leafy vegetables (kale, spinach) and fish, good vitamin supplements, regular exercise and constant use of good sun glasses!
Prevention of macular degeneration is a subject constantly talked about at New Era Eye Care. For example, the small investment in excellent sun wear (prescription and non-prescription) is incredibly worth any money spent. Particularly, if one considers the cost and difficulty of treatment for wet ARMD. That treatment includes periodic injection into the eye with a chemical known as Anti-VEGF. Wet ARMD and its various treatments is worth an entire article itself in effectiveness, cost, time and discomfort to the patient.
Our new patient complaining of “blurry faces” sadly was diagnosed with ARMD, but fortunately, the dry form. While the family was a bit distraught, our office view is something can always be done about it. We stated, that we now needed to do the second step which was intense education to provide a thorough understanding of the issue which consisted of both verbal and written handouts on the disease. The patient was also given an Amsler Grid, pictured below, for daily use, to monitor for possible changes in the grid which could signify the condition getting worse (2nd picture). And finally, as with any disease, a 3-month follow-up appointment was schedule to evaluate any further changes to the macula. While we were making the three-month follow up appointment, a family member asked what the first step was for ARMD. That answer was easy – making an appointment for a thorough eye health examination. Make yours today!