What is macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration, also called, AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration) is a frequent cause of loss of central vision. The macula is the central part of the retina, as the center of a target. Its function is to distinguish fine details (for example the difference between a face and another) and to read.
Therefore, when the macula becomes ill, they are no longer able to perceive the details of the images, while the remaining peripheral parts of the retina not interested, continue to operate normally.
Macular damage initially leads to impaired color vision & contrast, deformation and the disappearance of a part of the image.
In later stages it is perceived as a black spot in the center of the visual field, which remains central with eye movements, preventing reading.
Age-related macular degeneration can affect one eye or both, although this could happen at different times.
How many forms of AMD exist?
There is an initial form, which has important visual changes but which can evolve in two advanced seriously debilitating forms: a dry and a wet macular maculopathy.
What are the causes?
The causes are a combination of genetic and environmental factors resulting in aging of the tissues of the macula. When the ultraviolet (UV) sunlight penetrates the eye they interact with oxygen to form in particularly aggressive molecules, called free radicals, which damage the rods and cones. These are the cells responsible for vision. The damaged cells produce waste materials that form yellowish heaps, called drusen. In the dry maculopathy, the defect is such that the retina becomes thinner in an irreversible way. In wet maculopathy, there are alterations in the metabolism involving the growth of new capillaries, in an attempt to oppose the lack of oxygen supply.
Unfortunately, these new blood vessels, due to their fragility, leak fluid that causes damage to the macula.
The AMD can have genetic causes?
The study of genetic factors that underlie the onset of AMD, has had a great boost in the last few years. There are some certainties: it could be that in some families, andindividuals, there is a high genetic predisposition to suffer from macular degeneration.
Then, when the genetic predisposition interacts with environmental factors (smoking, etc.), the risk of developing the disease increases.
Is there is a test to detect the risk factors?
Yes, today there are tests that are performed on samples taken in a non-invasive and completely painless way through the lining of the mouth, allowing them to identify the risk of developing macular degeneration in the future (AMD). Recently we have initiated a pickup service of the samples for AMD testing from the patients’ location.