Despite ongoing research, there is no cure or medical treatment for the "dry" form of macular degeneration, other than prevention with antioxidant vitamins. However, low vision rehabilitation is very useful in helping people use their remaining vision in order to perform activities of daily living and maintain as high a level of independence as possible.
Certain types of "wet" macular degeneration can be treated with laser therapy. Traditional laser therapy uses a highly focused light to dry up leaking blood vessels or preventing them from continuing to grow. However, the vision loss is usually less severe than if laser therapy was not done. Laser treatment does not permanently stop the formation of new blood vessels. Therefore, repeat treatments are usually needed.
Prevention of Macular Degeneration
The cause of macular degeneration is not clearly understood and thus, most methods of prevention are unproven. The AREDS study demonstrated convincingly that a mixture of antioxidant vitamins could significantly reduce the risk of vision loss in patients with a certain number of large or intermediate size drusen. These vitamins are not entirely without risk, and should only be taken under the guidance of an ophthalmologist.
Demographic studies examining people with macular degeneration and their common characteristics suggest that there may be ways to minimize one's risk for developing macular degeneration. These include cessation of smoking, wearing sunglasses, and eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish. Although studies examining these interventions have produced conflicting results with regard to preventing or minimizing macular degeneration, studies showing the general health value of stopping smoking and eating a diet rich in antioxidants are well supported.
Detection of Macular Degeneration
In the early stages of macular degeneration, vision may seem blurred or somewhat distorted; or a blank spot may be seen in one's vision. Straight edges may seem bent or wavy. One may notice that each eye perceives the size or color of an object differently. Many people may not even notice early changes in vision because only one eye is affected while the other continues to see well. It is very important that any distortion of vision be promptly reported to an ophthalmologist for further evaluation.
Your ophthalmologist may suggest ocular coherence tomography (OCT), a procedure that uses a computer to evaluate the interference patterns of light reflected from the interior of the eye. OCT gives the ophthalmologist a clear view of the layers of the retina and aids in diagnosis.
Photography of the eye is also used for diagnosis and documentation of macular degeneration.