Our eyes are the window to the world. Vision loss can be extremely traumatizing and emotionally distressing for any person. Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is one degenerative disease, causing damage to macular region of the eye. Macula is the central and the most sensitive portion of the retina. It is like the camera of the eye where light is focused on the objects in front. While the rest of the retina gives us peripheral vision, macula provides us the ability to visualize things in high resolution. This gives a sharp, clear and focused image of the objects being visualized. AMD usually manifests in people over the age of 60. It progresses at a different pace depending on the individual and can lead to complete blindness.
AMD is broadly categorized into Wet AMD and Dry AMD. Wet AMD is an acute form that is more severe and generates new blood vessels beneath the retina that leak blood and fluid. This causes serious damage to the retina and should be treated urgently. Dry AMD is a slow-progressing form that is more common than the Wet AMD. It is mostly age-related and leads to an accumulation of yellow spots in the macular region due to deteriorating tissues. It can take up to 10 years for legal blindness to occur with this condition.
Early signs of Macular Degeneration
The earliest signs of AMD include a blurry vision especially with a dark spot in the center of the eye. There may also be an appearance of wavy lines instead of straight ones or a missing spot in the field of vision. This can interfere with simple day to day activities like reading, driving or sewing. Amsler grid test is used by ophthalmologists to diagnose AMD. It consists of grids of straight lines with a dark spot in the center. If the patient has AMD, he may observe some wavy lines instead of straight with shadowy areas.
Causes of AMD
There could be several underlying causes of development of AMD including exposure to bright light, poor diet or excessive iron consumption. It can also be due to deficiency of antioxidants or increasing age, smoking or genetic predisposition to AMD. High blood pressure, a light color of the eyes or side effects of drugs could be other factors responsible. This damages the photoreceptors in the eye that are actually responsible for perceiving light. These photoreceptors are responsible for sending signals to the brain that creates an image of the objects.
Stem cells can help in restoration of vision in patients and also slow down the progression of the disease. When injected into they eye, they aid information of the new retinal pigment cells and repair the damaged photoreceptors in the eye. This can help in better focusing of the objects. The good news is that Stem cell therapy has been proven safe with several clinical trials being conducted worldwide. Advancells, an Indian based company has successfully treated several patients suffering from Macular Degeneration.