Macular Degeneration is a common condition that affects older adults and is the leading cause of vision loss in patients age 50 and older. The macula is part of the retina that is responsible for central vision. It allows you to see fine details clearly and perform activities such as reading and driving.
Patients with advanced macular degeneration develop distortion and dark areas in their central vision affecting their ability to perform even common day to day activities.
What causes Macular Degeneration?
Although we are unsure why macular degeneration occurs, many people develop the disease as part of the body’s natural aging process. While not everyone develops macular degeneration, certain individuals are at a greater risk due to genetic and environmental factors.
In addition to specific genetic risk factors, females and people with light skin or eye color are at a greater risk as they age.
Additional factors that increased the risk for macular degeneration include:
- High fat diet
- Elevated cholesterol levels
- Prolonged sun exposure
- High blood pressure
- Certain medications
Types of Macular Degeneration
The 2 types of macular degeneration that occur are dry and wet. The dry form accounts for about 90% of the cases and is cause by a weakening of the barrier that separates your vision receptors and blood supply behind the retina. It develops slowly and usually causes mild to moderate vision loss. People can have difficulty recognizing faces and can need more light for reading and other details tasks.
Wet macular degeneration only accounts for about 10% of the disease but is associated with much greater vision loss. It is caused by a breach in the barrier leading to new blood vessel growth that cause fluid leakage and bleeding. Eventual scar tissue formation leads to large blind spots in a person’s central visual field and a marked disturbance in vision.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
Patients with dry macular may notice gradual changes to their vision, including:
- Shadowy areas in the central vision
- Fuzzy and distorted vision
- Blind spots in central vision
- Difficulty seeing fine details
Diagnosis and Treatment of Macular Degeneration
With the latest technology, our eye doctors can detect early stages of Macular Degeneration during a comprehensive eye exam. Macular Degeneration is not curable. The goal is to help the patient see better and to stabilize the condition.
There is no proven treatment for Dry Macular Degeneration. However, recent studies indicate that antioxidants or zinc supplements may reduce the disease’s impact in some people. Recent advances have shown success with intraocular injections of anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) to help control the damaging effects of new blood vessel growth in wet macular degeneration.
It is essential for all patients to have continuous eye care during the aging process to identify macular degeneration early, manage the condition, and take steps to prevent permanent vision loss.