These 7 Facts Can Help You Save Your Eyesight

Learn about macular degeneration

These 7 Facts Can Help You Save Your Eyesight

It may sound frightening that the most common treatment for wet (neovascular) age-related macular degeneration (AMD) requires an injection in your eyeball. But the treatment is the best way to control this chronic disease that causes central vision loss.

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Your doctor makes the injection efficient and as comfortable for you as possible, says ophthalmologist Aleksandra Rachitskaya, MD.

And without treatment, you could lose your eyesight.

“People are very sensitive about their eyes, so an injection seems intimidating,” Dr. Rachitskaya says. “But we do them on a regular basis and have a safe procedure to prepare the eye. And we do them in the clinic, so you don’t go to the operating room.”

RELATED: Should You Take Vitamins for Eye Health?

Typically, wet AMD refers to abnormal blood vessels that leak fluid or blood into the macula, causing the vision to deteriorate. Located in the center of your retina, the macula is the part of the retina where vision is keenest.

Dry age-related macular degeneration is a more common and usually less severe condition that also causes disease of the macula. People with dry AMD do not require injections. Be aware, however, that most wet AMD begins as dry AMD, so it’s important to have regular checkups to stay on top of your condition.

Here are seven things you need to know about wet AMD eye injections.

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1. Early detection is important

There is no cure for either type of AMD, but with early detection, your doctor can treat wet AMD to preserve as much of your vision as possible and, in some cases, improve your vision.

2. Three drugs are typically used for injections

Doctors usually inject one of these three drugs to control swelling and bleeding in your retina: bevacizumab (Avastin®), ranibizumab (Lucentis®), or aflibercept (Eylea®).

3. The eye is numbed and cleaned before injection

To be safe and cause the least amount of discomfort for you, your doctor will first anesthetize your eye. Next, he or she will clean your eye with special eye soap. This minimizes any risk of infection from the injection.

The injection itself takes a few seconds. Most people feel a little pinch and pressure, as the eye is already numbed. Finally, your doctor will wash the soap out of your eye, and you go home.

4. Injections tend to be performed monthly

Typically, doctors give injections once a month at their offices. Some patients who respond well to their medication may have fewer injections.

“Currently, there are a lot of research studies being conducted to alleviate the burden of monthly visits and injections and to find more longer acting slow-release systems,” Dr. Rachitskaya says. “But at this point, we need to do monthly treatments for most patients.”

5. While there is no known direct cause of AMD, there are several risk factors

These include:

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  • Age — It’s very unusual to see macular degeneration in people younger than 50.
  • Genetics — There is a genetic predisposition to develop macular degeneration, but researchers are still studying this factor.
  • Race — AMD is more common among Caucasians.
  • Nutrition and overall health –Smokers have a high risk of developing macular degeneration, as do people with unhealthy diets, cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol levels.

6. Vitamins and healthy diet may also help

For patients with a significant degree of dry AMD doctors recommend a regimen of vitamins. Known as AREDS2 vitamins, they contain high levels of antioxidants and zinc that may reduce the risk of advanced AMD. Additionally, a healthy diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish is recommended.

7. Your doctor will give you simple eye tests to do at home

The Amsler grid is a test that will monitor whether your disease remains stable or is advancing. You will use a grid with straight lines with which you can test each eye individually. If the lines look wavy, blurred or are missing, you need to notify your doctor immediately.

You can also use straight lines in your home, such as the edges of doors or shelves for this test.The test is important for patients with wet AMD, but possibly even more important for people with dry AMD, Dr. Rachitskaya says.

“I tell my patients with dry AMD to check each eye often, because they can progress to the wet type and would require treatment,” she says. “The sooner we catch that progression, the better are the outcomes.”

RELATED: 15 Fascinating Facts About Your Eyes (Infographic)

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