What is Macular Degeneration?

What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular Degeneration is a common vision impairment that causes blurred or lost central vision. The disease is linked to age and most often affects those over 50. Macular degeneration is caused when the macular, or the middle of the retina, deteriorates. Blurry or lost vision can be experienced in only one or both eyes. With more than 200,000 cases reported yearly in America, macular degeneration is the primary cause of vision loss.

Types of Macular Degeneration

There are two main types of this eye disease, wet and dry. Dry macular degeneration is the most common and is characterized by protein deposits in the eye. Wet macular degeneration is less common and causes extra blood vessels within the eye that leak blood. There is an even less-common type of macular degeneration called Stargardt Disease that affects young adults and children through a recessive gene.

Causes

The main cause of macular degeneration is age although there are some factors that may play a role in developing the disease.

  • Genetics
  • Gender

– Often seen in more women than men

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Race

– Affects more Caucasians than other races.

  • Cardiovascular Disease

Symptoms

Symptoms of macular degeneration often come on slowly and can go unnoticed until they worsen.

  • Fuzzy or distorted vision
  • Difficulty reading
  • Decreased central vision
  • Difficulty seeing in low light
  • Struggling to recognize faces
  • Blind spot in vision

Stages

The first stage of this eye disease is early-stage macular degeneration. The early-stage usually does not involve any symptoms. Only an optometrist can diagnose this stage by detecting drusen on the retina. Some patients do not experience any further stages of macular degeneration.

The second stage is intermediate macular degeneration. Vision loss will begin at this stage although it can still go unnoticed. An eye exam is required to diagnose macular degeneration at this stage.

The last stage is late macular degeneration. Once late-stage macular degeneration is reached, blurry or lost vision will be noticeable. An optometrist is still required to diagnose the condition.

Treatment

At present, there is no cure for macular degeneration however, there are ways to reduce or slow down the loss of vision.

  • Anti-angiogenic medication

– This medication is injected into the eye to help stop blood vessels from leaking as well as hinder new ones from growing. Some patients have improved vision with routine shots.

  • Antioxidant Vitamins

-Some nutritional supplements that include antioxidant vitamins have been able to lower the possibility of dry macular degeneration advancing into wet macular degeneration.

  • Laser Therapy

– Laser therapy is sometimes used to rid the retina of blood vessels.

  • Vision Assistance

-After vision has deteriorated, patients will often benefit from the use of magnifying glasses or special lenses.

Prevention

Much is still unknown about macular degeneration, however there are some life choices that could potentially lower the risk of developing the disease. Eating a healthy diet including fruit, vegetables, and fish will provide vitamins and fatty acids that reduce the risk. Avoiding smoking and keeping a healthy weight are also ways to lower risk. Some research even suggests that avoiding exposure to ultraviolet light may reduce the chance of developing macular degeneration. Ultimately, regular visits to the eye doctor are the best defense against this eye disease.

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