Early diagnosis is key to stop macular degeneration

Regular eye tests from the age of 40 can prevent more than fifty percent of the cases of blindness and low vision

tomografiaThe age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that causes progressive central vision loss. It occurs when the macula, the central area of the retina through which discriminate in more detail what or where we turn our eyes to, allowing us to read, recognize faces, colors, and perform actions such as driving, is damaged. Because of that it can seriously affect the quality of life of patients and their ability to perform daily activities.

AMD is the cause of low vision and legal blindness (Seeing less than 10% of normal) in patients over 60 years common from developed countries, so that in Spain more than 2% of people older than 50 sufferers and up to 20% of those above 75 years. In total, it is estimated to affect more than 800,000 people in the country and 40,000 in Galicia.

"This is degenerative and irreversible process but if it is detected on time knowadays is possible to slow it down preventing it to evolve to the more serious forms " emphasizes José Antonio Saavedra, codirector of the Centro de Ojos de La Coruña.

The eye, like the rest of the body, ages given that over 20% of the population is over 65 years, a dramatic increase in ocular pathology associated with aging is noted. Hence, the experts insist on the need to receive regular eye tests after 40 years of age, especially if there is a history of AMD in the family.

Straight lines undulate

Seeing a specialist should be an urgent priority when you have the first symptoms. With macular degeneration the first thing you notice is the distortion of images, so that the straight lines look wavy. In more advanced stages there is a more or less dense spot in the center of the visual field (called scotoma).

The patient may perform self-examination by a printed grid (Amsler grid) or looking in lines that should be straight, such as a floor tile, or the frames of doors and windows. The affected person is incapacitated for everyday tasks such as reading, writing or driving, with a consequent reduction in quality of life "social and psychological consequences that this vision loss can lead" emphasizes the specialist.

The importance of identifying these early symptoms of distorted vision lies in that "many cases can be treated with antiangiogenic drugs that are administered intraocularly achieving a slow down of the progression of macular degeneration ", said codirector of the Centro de Ojos de La Coruna.

70% of the patients treated with new drugs preserve sight

Besides genetic predisposition and age, other risk factors for AMD, are a diet low in fruits and vegetables and saturated fat excess, or insufficient intake of vitamins C and E and minerals like zinc. In addition, smoking, arterial hypertension, obesity, excess sun exposure or having clear eyes also increase the probability of developing the pathology, that may occur in two forms: dry or atrophic, which it is the most common and presenting itself with a slow and gradual loss of the the ability to distinguish details; and a damp or exudative, that evolves in a acute and rapid maner, which is caused by the existence of abnormal vessels under the macula, blood and fluid leaks causing loss and decreased neuronal central vision. Visiting your ophthalmologist starting at age 40 and learning to recognize the symptoms are the keys to prevent the degenerative proces progress, plus changing diet and habits.

Also, if there are strong family history or even you already have one eye damaged, you could take specific antioxidants to the macula. Today it is possible to stop the development of certain types of wet AMD using new drugs.