Those with macular degeneration may experience central vision loss, but it’s possible for this condition to be slowed through surgery. It is important to note that no kind of macular degeneration can be cured, and most treatments focus on slowing the progression of the eye condition.
To learn more about the types of macular degeneration, continue reading EyeCare Associates’ guide to macular degeneration and macular degeneration surgery.
Macular degeneration is a condition that develops on the retina — a layer of tissue at the back of the eye — in an area called the macula. The macula detects light and helps your eye see color and fine details. It is also the part of the eye that is responsible for your central vision.
There are two types of age-related damage that can occur to the macula: dry age-related macular degeneration (dry AMD) and wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD).
Roughly 80% of people with macular degeneration have the dry form¹ of the disease. With this condition, the macula becomes dry and brittle, and clumps of proteins form that obstruct your central vision. There is no cure for dry macular degeneration, but nutraceutical implementation has shown to slow the progression of the disease.
Wet macular degeneration is less common but can create more serious issues. In this form of the disease, new blood vessels form under the retina. The vessels then leak blood and other fluids into the macula area, causing scarring.
Over time, this scarring causes blurred vision and central vision loss. The vision problems typically develop more quickly than in this form of the disease.
The treatment options available are dependent on which type of macular degeneration you’re diagnosed with.
Medications and surgery can be used to slow the progression of the wet form. These include, but are not limited to:
Medications used to slow the growth of blood vessels, such as anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) drugs².
Photodynamic therapy, which uses intravenous medication and a non-thermal laser treatment to destroy abnormal blood vessels
A non-thermal laser surgery called laser photocoagulation³ to burn away and prevent further growth of abnormal blood vessels
Nutraceuticals can be used to slow progression in this form.
Laser photocoagulation surgery can help prevent total vision loss in the long term. However, the scarring it causes may create a blind spot that adds to your current vision loss. Your doctor will talk to you about the risks of the procedure and whether it'll be beneficial to you.
Macular degeneration surgery is usually more helpful for people whose abnormal blood vessels are clustered close together. It may not help those with scattered vessel formation.
Before you consider surgery, you should discuss all treatment options with your eye doctor. As with any surgery, there are risks to laser photocoagulation, including additional vision loss. You may want to try treating with medications before considering surgery.
If you do make the decision to move forward with surgery, there isn't much you need to do to prepare. During the procedure, your eyes will be dilated with special eye drops. You will need to arrange for someone to drive you to and from the procedure.
When you arrive for your surgery, you will be seated for treatment. The doctor will then dilate your eyes, using eye drops. A local anesthetic or numbing drops may also be used.
Once your doctor is ready to begin the surgery, you will position your face on a chin rest. After this a special lens will be placed in front of your eye. This lens helps your doctor focus on the treatment area. You will be asked to focus straight ahead or at another light.
Your doctor will then direct a laser at the affected areas to seal off leaking blood vessels. With each pulse of the laser, a small flash of light will be visible. The number of pulses used will depend on the severity of your condition. In all, the entire procedure should only take about 30 minutes.
After surgery, your doctor may cover your eye with a patch or bandage. Your eyes will be dilated for a few hours after the procedure. It isn't uncommon to have blurred vision for a day or so after your surgery. It is possible to have floaters that will resolve in time.
Your doctor will provide you with instructions about how long to keep your eye covered, what medications you can take for discomfort and when to return for follow-up visits. Keep in mind that your vision will be blurred for at least a day after surgery.
Neither laser photocoagulation nor other procedures can cure macular degeneration, nor can they reverse the damage that has already been done. The goal of macular degeneration treatments — including surgery — it is to reduce the risk of additional damage and vision loss.
Think you may need macular degeneration surgery? Find an EyeCare Associates location near you to schedule an appointment. Our team of highly trained eye care professionals provide comprehensive eye care including routine eye exams, preventative care, and treatment.