Macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is caused by deterioration of the retina and can severely impair vision. There is no cure for macular degeneration, but it can be treated with vitamins, laser therapy, medications and vision aids. Your central vision is what you see when you’re looking straight ahead. Your peripheral vision is what you see on the side when you’re looking straight ahead. Macular degeneration doesn’t cause total blindness because it doesn’t affect your peripheral vision.
It’s estimated that more than 10 million Americans have this disease. It’s also the number one cause of vision loss. This cause of this disease is deterioration of the macula, which is a small area in the center of the retina in the back of the eye.
Types of Macular degeneration
The two types of macular degeneration are dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration.
Dry macular degeneration is the most common form of this eye condition, affecting about 85 to 90 percent of people who have the macular degeneration. This form of the disease occurs due to small yellow deposits called drusen developing under the macula. This causes retinal damage and vision loss.
Wet macular degeneration affects about 10 to 15 percent of people with the condition. This occurs when abnormal blood vessels develop under the retina and macula. If you have this form of macular degeneration, you may see a dark spot in the center of your vision due to blood vessels bleeding or leaking fluid.
Macular degeneration is a progressive disease. This means that it will get worse over time. You may not notice vision problems in the early stages of the disease. You’re also less likely to notice vision changes when it affects both eyes at the same time.
Symptoms for Macular Degeneration
The symptoms of dry macular degeneration include the following:
• A distortion of straight lines in your field of vision
• A reduction in central vision
• Worse or less clear vision. Your vision might be blurry and it may be hard to read fine print or drive.
• Trouble recognizing faces
• Dark, blurry areas in the center of your vision
• Rarely, worse or different color perception
• The need for brighter lighting
• Difficulty adapting to low lights
• rapidly worsening symptoms
• Wet and dry macular don’t affect peripheral vision. While the disease can prevent you from seeing what’s directly in front of you, it doesn’t cause complete blindness.
Causes of Macular degeneration
- Age-related macular degeneration is more common in older people. It’s the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over 60.
- Macular degeneration may have something to do with your genes. If someone in your family has it, your risk might be higher.
- Smoking, having high blood pressure or high cholesterol,obesity, eating lots of saturated fat, being light-skinned, being female and having a light eye color are also risk factors.
A routine eye exam can spot age-related macular degeneration. One of the most common early signs is drusen — tiny yellow spots under your retina — or pigment clumping. Your doctor can see these when they examine your eyes.
Your doctor may also ask you to look at an Amsler grid, a pattern of straight lines that resembles a checkerboard. Some of the straight lines may appear wavy to you, or you may notice that some of the lines are missing. These can be signs of macular degeneration.
If your doctor finds age-related macular degeneration, you may have a procedure called angiography or one called OCT. In angiography, your doctor injects dye into a vein in your arm. They take photographs as the dye flows through the blood vessels in your retina. If there are new vessels or vessels leaking fluid or blood in your macula, the photos will show their exact location and type. OCT is able to see fluid or blood underneath your retina without dye.
Indocyanine green angiography
Indocyanine green angiography is similar to fluorescein angiography. Your doctor injects indocyanine green dye. They can use this test to confirm the results of fluorescein angiography and to diagnose your type of macular degeneration.
Optical coherence tomography.
This involves taking cross-sectional images of the retina and checking for swelling, thickening, or thinning. After you’re diagnosed with macular degeneration, your doctor may also use this type of test to see how your eyes respond to treatment.
Treatment for dry macular degeneration.
If you have dry macular degeneration, your doctor may suggest that you work with a low vision rehabilitation specialist. The specialist can teach you how to adjust and cope with vision loss.
Your doctor may also recommend surgery to help improve your vision. During the surgery, they’ll implant a telescopic lens on your eye, which magnifies your field of vision.
Treatment for wet macular degeneration
If you have wet macular degeneration, you’ll also benefit from working with a low vision rehabilitation specialist. Also, your doctor may administer a medication directly into your eye to stop the growth of new blood vessels. It can take several weeks of treatment before you notice a difference.
Another treatment option is photodynamic therapy. Your doctor injects a medication into a vein in one of your arms and then uses a special laser to close up leaking blood vessels. This type of therapy can improve your vision, but you may need multiple treatments.
People who have lost their vision may need magnifiers, strong reading glasses, and other devices to help them manage.
To help reduce your chances of getting macular degeneration:
• don’t smoke
• eat a healthy diet rich in leafy greens
• maintain a healthy weight
• wear sunglasses with UV protection during the day
• Check your sight every day by looking at an Amsler grid — a pattern of straight lines that’s like a checkerboard. It can help you spot changes in your vision.
• Stop smoking, eat a balanced diet that includes leafy green vegetables and protect your eyes with sunglasses that block harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
• Supplements with antioxidants plus zinc may lower your odds of getting AMD, according to the Age-Related Eye Disease Study.
• If you’re over 65, your vision exams should include testing for AMD.