By Edeline Anne Goh
If you have Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), you are not alone. About thirty to forty million people around the world have AMD and an estimated 1.5 million people over the age of fifty are diagnosed with wet AMD each year.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a degenerative disease associated with ageing. It progressively destroys sharp, central vision, greatly impacting lives as the resulting loss of eyesight can be extremely sudden and severe.
There are 2 types of AMD – dry and wet. Dry AMD occurs when light-sensitive cells in the macula (a yellow spot in the retina) slowly deteriorate causing blurring and eventually loss in your central vision if left untreated. Wet AMD on the other hand occurs when abnormal blood vessels beneath the retina (a light-sensitive inner lining in the eye) leak fluid and blood, hence blurring or scarring your central vision. Wet AMD causes irreparable loss of vision.
Symptoms of Wet AMD
Wet AMD can occur at anytime and people who already have dry AMD are especially susceptible. If left untreated, you can lose your eyesight within months.
The symptoms of wet AMD include blurriness, image distortion or dark blotchy spots in the central part of your visual focus. So, if you experience any of these symptoms, an immediate trip to an eye specialist is vital as every second counts.
Age is the greatest risk factor when it comes to wet AMD. There is a 2 percent risk if you are between your forties and sixties and this increases to thirty percent if you are over 75. Other risk factors include:
- Family history
- Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle
- High blood pressure
- Gender — women are at a slightly higher risk than men
- Excessive exposure to the sun
While some factors such as ageing and genetic disposition cannot be avoided, there are other things that you can do to decrease your chances of contracting wet AMD
Early detection and treatment of wet AMD is extremely important as this disease can progress rapidly. Ensure that you are diligent about visiting your eye specialist for a thorough check up, twice a year. This will increase the chances of early detection of any eye abnormalities, which could mean the difference between maintaining or losing your eyesight.
If you have been diagnosed with wet AMD, it’s not all bad news. With advanced research and the rise of new medical technologies, there are now various treatment options available that can stop the disease from becoming worse. This includes photodynamic therapy, laser surgery and anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) therapy, which is currently considered to be the gold standard.
However, despite these significant treatment advancements, sustained visual improvements can only be maintained with regular monitoring. Since consistent treatment and monitoring of the condition is required, it often becomes a burden to the patient and caregiver as regular trips to the eye clinic are necessary.
Patients with wet AMD may not only experience the potentially devastating loss of sight, the condition brings with it, various problems that arise from this loss including loss of independence, social isolation and depression.
This is why early detection is absolutely essential and it is important to receive consistent treatment to prevent ongoing visual deterioration and eventual loss of eyesight.
EYLEA® is a fusion protein for the treatment of Wet AMD that was recently approved by the Ministry of Health, Malaysia.
Wet AMD patient Dato’ Hew Hoi Lam, 66, is a principal architect and was present at the launch event for EYLEA®. Recalling the very first time he experienced wet AMD symptoms, Dato’ Hew said, “I went over to my friend’s place for a Hari Raya open house and I could not see the food on my plate with my right eye. I excused myself and headed to the bathroom to wash my eye but it didn’t get better. In the end, I ended up sitting throughout dinner without touching the food.”
Dato’ Hew had to wait a few days before consulting a doctor as many clinics were closed during the festive season. However, when he finally had the opportunity to consult a doctor, his worst fears materialised. He was told that blood was pooling in his right eye and he was immediately referred to an eye specialist for further tests and treatments.
Fortunately, Dato’ Hew was able to retain his sight. He now goes for an anti-VEGF injection every month to prevent the disease from progressing and thankfully with EYLEA®, he experiences minimal side effects from the treatment.