Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) results from complex hereditary and environmental influences and is not just a result of aging. Still, age-related macular degeneration is the most common cause of visual loss in older Americans. An estimated 30 percent of Americans have some form of macular degeneration by age 75.

UT Southwestern Medical Center specialists recommend that everyone 55 years of age or older should be examined by an ophthalmologist; those with a family history of AMD should have a dilated eye exam by age 50.

Macular vision (the macula is located in the retina) is required for tasks where people look straight ahead, such as driving or detail work. In advanced stage, called wet type macular degeneration, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina, causing leaking and bleeding. Retinal tissues begin to break down and scar.

Symptoms of AMD include fuzzy or blurry vision, distortion of straight lines, and a dark or empty area in the center of vision. Its early stage is called dry AMD, which may advance to wet AMD. Wet AMD is associated with up to 90 percent of the severe vision loss caused by this condition. Ophthalmologists at UT Southwestern use hot and cold laser treatments and medication to treat wet AMD, as well as surgery when necessary.

Ophthalmologists in UT Southwestern’s Macular Degeneration Program use the latest diagnostic technologies to treat dry AMD. To treat dry AMD in its early stages, they use the latest vitamin and mineral supplement treatments to slow vision loss and also recommend UV protection to preserve eyesight.

For patients with wet AMD, UT Southwestern ophthalmologists use:

  • Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) drugs Macugen or Lucentis to prevent the growth of abnormal blood vessels
  • Photodynamic therapy, a light-activated drug activated by a laser, to form a clot that closes abnormal blood vessels
  • Thermal laser therapy (photocoagulation) to seal blood vessels and inhibit their growth