A Story About My Nana and AMD
This week is Macular Degeneration Awareness Week 2017. This month I have focused all of our blogs on this condition which is the leading cause of blindness in Australia in over 50’s. I am really passionate about macular health because my Nana suffered from severe wet macular degeneration in the mid 1990’s, right when I was finishing university and beginning my optometry career. My Nana, Betty Bowden, was a guru in the kitchen and loved sewing and knitting. She made beautiful woollen jumpers for everyone in the family. In her early 80’s however, she was hit by wet macular degeneration and lost all her central vision almost overnight. She had severe vision loss and couldn’t see fine details. She couldn’t make fancy meals anymore, or drive the car, but continued to knit by feel because she couldn’t see the details in the patterns. Unfortunately for my Nana no effective treatments existed when she had her macular bleeds, most of the big advancements happened in the 2000's and 2010’s. When I look back over 20 years to now and the treatments we have available, we are able to refer people when wet AMD develops, and treatments exist that can maintain vision and prevent severe vision loss. We can also ensure a thorough preventative approach to slow the onset of the disease as discussed last week. Following is an insight into the treatment options that exist
What is the treatment of macular degeneration?
If the presence of WET AMD is detected you will be referred to a retinal specialist for evaluation and treatment. Several treatment options are now available that will help control AMD and prevent severe vision loss. These include injections and laser therapy. Your retinal specialist will advise as to which treatment options are best for your condition. Injections are aimed at destroying the abnormal new blood vessels that grow into the macula like weeds. The injections “act like weed killer” destroying these diseased vessels and stopping them before they can cause bleeding and scarring. The treatments usually need to be repeated regularly to prevent recurrence. As often as every 8-12 weeks indefinitely.
For dry AMD, no treatment currently exists, however several preventative measures are useful. Quitting smoking and wearing sunglasses whenever outdoors, as well as dietary changes are all proven beneficial actions.
Some AMD patients have vision loss that is significant enough that they experience low vision, and we are able to provide assessment and advice regarding the use of magnifiers, and support materials and organizations to ensure lifestyle is maintained to a maximum. The Macular Degeneration Foundation www.mdfoundation.com.au, is an excellent resource. Remember prevention is the best approach: good diet, no smoking and wear sunglasses.