Macular Degeneration Symptoms & Diagnosis

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Macular Degeneration Treatment and Prevention in Sarasota, FL

Age-related vision changes are to be expected; they happen throughout our entire lives, and in our later years they tend to progress more rapidly. While routine changes are perfectly normal, as we get older we must be cognizant of the potential for age-related macular degeneration, or A.M.D.

What is the Macula?

The origin of the word macula can be found in Latin, where it was taken to mean ‘spot.’  In regards to the eye, the macula refers to the central 5 millimeters of the retina, where vision is the sharpest.  The center of the macula does have a central ‘spot’ in fact, called the fovea.  Your entire ability to read and drive is located within this critical one-millimeter of the central retina.

There are many conditions that can affect the macula.  While macular degeneration is the most common, you may also hear about other retinal problems such as macular pucker, macular hole, and macular dystrophy.  Each of these conditions is unique, with distinct treatments and prognosis for vision.

What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration is a deterioration of the central retina that leads to a loss of visual acuity.  Macular degeneration is described as age-related because it rarely occurs before the age of 60 but presents with increasing frequency as the years advance.  By the time someone reaches their 80’s, they have a one in three chance of having macular degeneration.

What are the Symptoms of Macular Degeneration?

Most patients with macular degeneration experience a slow, gradual decrease in their central vision over years.  The vision loss from macular degeneration is fixed and constant, meaning it won’t drift through the vision or fluctuate throughout the day.  This may be first noticed when a person needs more light to read, when a recent glasses update isn’t helping, or when driving becomes more difficult.

A.M.D. Vision Simulator

While most vision loss from macular degeneration is gradual, sometimes there can be an abrupt change. In some cases, the first symptoms of macular degeneration will be the sudden onset of distortion or a blind spot in the vision.

While most vision loss from macular degeneration is gradual, sometimes there can be an abrupt change. In some cases, the first symptoms of macular degeneration will be the sudden onset of distortion or a blind spot in the vision.

– Dr. Thomas Shane,
Macular Degeneration Specialist and founder of Shane Retina

Which Type of Macular Degeneration Do I Have?

Age-related macular degeneration comes in two flavors, dry and wet. While most folks think of dry macular degeneration as ‘the good kind’ and wet macular degeneration as ‘the bad kind,’ you can read below that this distinction is not entirely helpful.

Which Type of Macular Degeneration Do I Have? | Image of Eye DiseaseDry macular degeneration is the most common form of the disease, affecting 90% of patients with A.M.D. Dry macular degeneration is characterized by the presence of bumps underneath the retina, called drusen. These retinal changes show up early in the disease and typically take a long time to lead to vision loss. The size, number, and appearance of drusen can be prognostic for future vision loss. As the years pass by, the drusen typically become more numerous and destructive to the overlying retina. Eventually, the bumps may disappear leaving blind spots in their place.

Wet macular degeneration is less common than dry, affecting only 10% of patients. Wet macular degeneration is characterized by the growth of new blood vessels that leak and bleed under the retina. When left untreated, these changes lead to rapid retinal damage and vision loss.

Although wet macular degeneration can lead to rapid vision loss, it is entirely treatable. Patients who get timely treatment for wet macular degeneration can maintain their vision for years until their underlying dry macular degeneration takes over (yes, you can have wet and dry macular degeneration at the same time). Unfortunately, we do not have good treatments to stop vision loss from dry macular degeneration. It’s for these reasons that just as many patients lose vision from dry macular degeneration as they do wet.

What Causes Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

There is no ‘one’ cause for macular degeneration, just a list of risk factors that increase your risk for developing the condition. Besides age >60, the most common risk factors for age-related macular degeneration include family history and smoking. Other potential contributing factors include:

  • Female gender
  • Caucasian race
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Poor nutrition

How is Macular Degeneration Diagnosed?

Regular eye examinations become more important as we get older, so that age-related vision changes, like A.M.D., can be detected and treated as early as possible. Macular degeneration can be diagnosed by an ophthalmologist during a dilated eye exam with the help of retinal imaging called an optical coherence tomograph (OCT).

If you suspect that you or a loved one may be at risk for macular degeneration, it’s important to have a retina specialist evaluate you to be sure no vision is lost. Do not hesitate to call us today at (941) 351-1200. We can help you!

How is A.M.D. Treated?

Intermediate dry macular degeneration is best treated with daily vitamin supplementation, using a specific formula that was proven in large, randomized clinical trials to slow vision loss over the period of many years.  This vitamin formula is called AREDS2, named after the 2nd Age-Related Eye Disease Study that proved their effectiveness.  Included in the formula are vitamins C, E, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc, and copper.  While the vitamin is largely safe to take twice per day, consult your ophthalmologist to determine if you have any specific contraindications.

Advanced dry macular degeneration is treated by a class of injectable drugs called complement inhibitors. The first of these medications to be FDA approved is called Syfovre. Syfovre works by blocking a type of immune response in the retina, slowing the progression of vision loss due to central retinal atrophy. See your retina specialist to determine if you’d be a good candidate for this new class of medication.

Wet macular degeneration has benefited from the miraculous development of eye injections that can completely halt leakage and bleeding in the retina.  These drugs block the chemical signal in the eye that stimulates wet AMD, called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).  Prior to these treatments, patients would lose vision despite undergoing laser treatment.  Now with the help of periodic eye injections, vision can be restored and maintained indefinitely.

Despite our success with eye injections, herculean efforts continue to find better treatments for both dry and wet macular degeneration.  As you read this, studies are ongoing using stem cells, retinal implants, new injectable medicines, drops, pills, and a host of other treatments to reduce treatment burden and improve visual outcomes from macular degeneration.

Will I Go Blind From Macular Degeneration?

Only a small percentage of patients lose their central vision in both eyes due to macular degeneration.  This number continues to decrease over time as fewer people smoke and better treatments are made available.  The best thing that a patient can do to avoid vision loss is to seek regular examinations with their ophthalmologist and to follow-up on time.  Much of the vision loss from macular degeneration comes simply from a delay in treatment.

Patients with severe central vision loss can avail themselves of the many resources to assist with visual tasks, spanning from digital magnifiers bought from Amazon to consultation with community low vision services.  Even in the worst-case scenarios, macular degeneration only affects the central vision.  The peripheral vision will continue to function, and patients will still have the ability to navigate the room without trouble (no canes or seeing-eye dogs!).

I was referred to Dr. Shane for macular issues and was immediately welcomed into the office. Dr. Shane’s staff made me feel very comfortable and Dr. Shane was fantastic. Not only is he the very best in his field, but his empathetic approach to his new patients is commendable and greatly appreciated. He always explains every detail of treatment in a calm and professional way to put his patients at ease. I couldn’t have asked for a better doctor to restore my vision. I thank him very much!!!

Pat Bennett, Google Review

Reviews of Our Macular Degeneration Services

This is the best and most talented eye surgeon you could ever want! My husband had eye surgery with Dr Shane and I know another gal that had the same surgery with another doctor. My husband had to be face down for a week the other patient was not told to do that he had a full recovery the other patient with the other doctor is now blind in that eye. In addition she's married to another fabulous eye doctor who has been caring for my mother in Sarasota who is 97 with macular degeneration and she's still able to drive her electric wheelchair! These two physicians in Sarasota County are top shelf Dr Anita Shane in Venice and Dr Shane in Sarasota they are in my opinion a blessing to our community and we are so lucky to have them! Rev. Elizabeth Turk
Lynn Hewett
Lynn Hewett
As a new patient I was please to find the clinic friendly and well organized.The tests and the examination by Dr Shane was very thorough .Ayah gave me new information about my particular symptoms of macular degeneration that I had not received before. Thank you.She also did a very good job of marking a difficult procedure less unpleasant.The entire experience was excellent.I would highly recommend this clinic.
Marian Clark
Marian Clark
Having moved from Ft. Myers recently, I was very concerned with finding a great ophthalmologist in this area. All my worries were for no reason since I found Dr. Thomas Shane for treatment of age related macular degeneration. He and his team provide exceptional, compassionate care. His office is immaculate and very efficiently run. I would highly recommend him without reservation if your are in need of an outstanding ophthalmologist.
Mary Egan
Mary Egan
I first met Dr. Shane about 3 yrs ago. I started seeing flashes of light in my left eye. His well trained staff got me in immediately. I went to his Sarasota office. He determined that my retina had torn. He had me follow him to his University office where he performed laser surgery to repair the tear. Two years later, my right retina tore. I knew exactly where to go. This year (The Year of Covid) I was experiencing visual distortion in my right eye. There was a misunderstanding regarding whether or not Dr. Shane was on my insurance plan. I saw three other ophthalmologists in Sarasota. I was told I had a macular pucker and required surgery. One of the providers, the MOST EXPENSIVE, stated that I needed to have cataract surgery first. When I asked why they believed cataract surgery was necessary on an eye with 20/25 vision, I was told...well we just won't do that eye. (? Red Flag) I decided to pay out of pocket to have Dr. Shane evaluate my eye. His staff contacted me and informed me that he was on my plan. I was able to confirm this with my insurance company. Dr. Shane agreed that I did need surgery for the macular pucker; however, cataract surgery was not necessary at this time. Needless to say, my vision is improving daily. No more distortion.This is an extremely long post, but our eyes deserve the BEST! No second chances here for screw ups. Dr. Shane and his staff are the absolute, hands down, best in the Sarasota/Bradenton area. I can't say enough about his knowledge, concern and love for his profession. This is obvious when you meet his staff, at both locations too. Everyone there makes you feel like family.... like they've know you forever. It doesn't get any better.
Angie F
Angie F
I was a patient of Dr Shane's in Bradenton, and she is the nicest and kindest Dr you will find. She is amazing with the elderly as well, she was my mother's Dr for her macular degeneration and really helped her. We miss her.
Dr Shane was recommended to me by my GP. Staff are friendly and thorough. I have early macular degeneration and feel comfortable this DR is keeping up with developments and is there if i have any questions.
Pat Bennett
Pat Bennett
I was referred to Dr. Shane by Dr. Putrino for macular issues and was immediately welcomed into the office. Dr. Shane's staff made me feel very comfortable and Dr. Shane was fantastic. Not only is he the very best in his field, but his empathetic approach to his new patients is commendable and greatly appreciated. He always explains every detail of treatment in a calm and professional way to put his patients at ease. I couldn't have asked for a better doctor to restore my vision. I thank him very much!!!

Contact Us Today

For those lucky enough to live in Sarasota or Manatee County, the renowned staff at Shane Retina is available to help with your macular degeneration evaluation and treatment. Our retina specialists in Sarasota, FL, led by Dr. Thomas Shane M.D., will make sure you get the right treatment you need.

If you are experiencing any A.M.D. symptoms, or have a concern about your eye health, contact us today to set up an appointment at our Sarasota or Manatee County offices. Dr. Shane works hard to be available to our patients to answer questions and calm concerns.