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Treating Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration optometrist copperas cove

Expert Eye Care Services for Killeen, TX

Macular degeneration is one of the most common causes for blindness in the US among people over 65 years old. Typically, this disease runs in families. Despite its prevalence, there is currently no cure for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). However, there are a number of effective treatment options to slow or stop its progression.

Treatments for AMD can help you avoid vision loss and blindness, and in some cases they even improve the eyesight of patients with AMD. If you have macular degeneration, our knowledgeable eye doctors at Cove Eyecare will treat your disease to promote the lasting quality of your vision. Located in Copperas Cove, we’re pleased to serve many patients from surrounding communities, such as Killeen, TX. We care about your eyes!

What happens after diagnosis of macular degeneration?

If our eye doctors detect your eye disease when it first begins, many preventive measures can be taken to treat AMD so that your vision remains as healthy as possible. That’s why routine eye exams are so critical! During your eye exam at Cove Eyecare, we’ll evaluate your ocular health thoroughly to look for any signs of macular degeneration. If we detect any problems, we’ll recommend appropriate treatment immediately.

What is treatment for the two types of macular degeneration?

Dry macular degeneration:  this type progresses more slowly and vision damage is usually less severe. When dry AMD is diagnosed early, our eye doctors can help prevent it from advancing into wet AMD, which is generally more aggressive and extreme.

Treatment may consist of taking high doses of zinc and antioxidants. More scientific research is needed, yet a promising study by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health demonstrated that specific vitamins (C, E, beta-carotene, zinc, and copper) decreased the risk of vision loss in patients with dry macular degeneration.

Wet macular degeneration:  with this type, abnormal blood vessels grow (angiogenesis) and leak, leading to the development of scar tissue. Wet AMD is the more serious form of this eye disease.

Treatment may involve injecting AMD medication directly into your eye, which works to suppress the growth of more problematic blood vessels. Laser therapy is another encouraging treatment option in which laser is used to destroy abnormal blood vessels that are growing.

Our experienced and compassionate optometry team is dedicated to partnering with you – our respected patient – to ensure that you receive the best eye care services. We believe in discussing all the benefits, risks, and limitations of various macular degeneration treatments with our patients. We look forward to treating patients from Killeen, TX, and all surrounding neighborhoods!

Question: What is Macular Degeneration?

Dr. Young: Macular Degeneration is a condition which affects individuals later in life, although it can occur as early as in someone's 40s. We have learned that it is a 100% genetic condition, that is also affected by lifestyle choices, such as smoking, and sun exposure.

Question: Wait. You just said it's 100% genetic, but is affected by lifestyle?

Dr. Young: A person can have the genes for Macular Degeneration but may not experience vision loss or a severe form of the disease if they are not a smoker and protect their eyes from sun exposure. For example, smokers with this gene have a greater chance of having vision loss from Macular Degeneration.

Question: So, this is a senior people's disease?

Dr. Young: It generally affects people in the 60s and beyond, but it can occur as early as in someone's 40s.

Question: What part of the eye is affected by Macular Degeneration?

Dr. Young: Macular Degeneration affects the most sensitive part of the retina, which is called the macula. It is a condition where the outer layers of the retina become disrupted, which in turn affects the person's ability to read, drive, and recognize faces.

There are two forms of Macular Degeneration. A dry form which is most common. This affects about 90% of people diagnosed with Macular Degeneration. The other is a wet form, or hemorrhagic type of Macular Degeneration.

This wet form if more visually disabling and more aggressive of the two. There are a percentage of people who transition from dry Macular Degeneration to wet Macular Degeneration and that's why Macular Degeneration needs to be monitored very carefully.

We check the retina, and if we determine the patient has formations suggestive of Macular Degeneration, we will then do further imaging studies and genetic testing, called the Macula Risk Test, which allows us to determine a person's specific phenotype for the disease, meaning the person's particular genetic makeup of the disease. We like to do this test because it helps us determine which nutritional supplements are going to optimize their vision and decrease the chances for vision loss.

Question: If I don't show symptoms of Macular Degeneration, or anything you might suspect, then you wouldn't run the genetic test?

Dr. Young: Correct.

Question: What is the treatment for Macular Degeneration?

Dr. Young: There is no treatment for dry Macular Degeneration. We manage it with nutritional supplements. There is treatment for wet Macular Degeneration, to try and save the vision. This involves injections into the eye of Anti-VEGF. This decreases the blood vessel growth into the eye - shutting down the leaky blood vessels.

Question: Do people come to you complaining of symptoms or is Macular Degeneration more typically found during your testing?

Dr. Young: It's more typical for me to find it, and the patient to not know they have it. That's the dry form of the disease- the more common form. 90% of people suffering from Macular Degeneration have the dry form of the disease. They are older, their vision is declining, but they don't yet know that they have Macular Degeneration.

During the course of our exam, when we perform the retinal evaluation, we will see these formations in the retina, in the macula, and they are called "drusin". These drusin spots are what make us begin our investigation for Macular Degeneration.

If the patient has these drusin spots, we will explain everything about Macular Degeneration to the patient. We will ask if they have any family members that have it that they know of, and get more information from them about their lifestyle choices including smoking history.

We want to find out what stage they are at, the severity of the disease, do they have any blood vessel ingrowth, and whether it is the dry or wet form of Macular Degeneration.

We will then do a cheek swab for the Macula Risk Test. Once we get the results back, in two to six weeks, we can determine what nutritional supplements best fit their genetic profile, as well as determine what are their chances of progression to vision loss. Once we have all this information, we know how to monitor them to try to prevent vision loss.

Question: Does insurance cover the supplements?

Dr. Young: Yes. some insurance companies will reimburse for them. These antioxidant supplements are called nutraceuticals. They have been proven scientifically (during the AREDS studies, which provided information about the disease and how to prevent vision loss) to prevent further damage and to actually heal the eyes in some cases.

Question: Does insurance cover treatment for Wet Macular Degeneration?

Dr. Young: All treatment for Wet Macular Degeneration, including the injections, is covered by insurance.

Question: Is there anything else you would like to say about Macular Degeneration, which we haven't addressed?

Dr. Young: I would like to say that knowledge is power. Nobody likes getting bad news, but it's far better to know what could be ahead, and how to plan and prevent the most adverse of effects. It's very important. That's why everyone is urged to have their eyes examined annually.