Macular degeneration is an eye disease that occurs when the eye’s macula begins to deteriorate, leading to blurred vision and partial vision loss. It is mostly associated with aging and is the leading cause of vision loss among people over age 60. Aside from age, there are specific risk factors identified with an increased risk of developing macular degeneration. They include being Caucasian, being obese, using tobacco products and having high blood pressure or cholesterol.
Wet Macular Degeneration
Wet macular degeneration is the least common form of the eye disease and is identified by the presence of abnormal blood vessels beneath the macula. As the blood vessels begin to leak, fluid distorts vision, creating blind spots and indistinct lines. Eventually, scarring occurs around the blood vessels, which results in a permanent loss of central vision.
Dry Macular Degeneration
Dry macular degeneration is the most common version of the disease and is caused by an aging of the macula rather than the growth of abnormal blood vessels. Dry macular degeneration usually begins with minor symptoms, such as the presence of yellow drusen within the eye. As the drusen multiply and expand, vision becomes darker or distorted. Over time, blind spots may develop and a minority of patients may eventually develop the wet form of the disease.
Coping with Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration can be a very frustrating disease, as patients suffering with it may have trouble performing routine tasks, reading a book, operating a vehicle or even recognizing faces. Although there is currently no cure, the disease can be managed and its progress slowed – especially when it is detected in its earliest stages.
Dry macular degeneration is age-related and may be helped with regular consumption of certain vitamins like zinc, copper and beta-carotene. For patients who have wet macular degeneration, anti-angiogenesis medications may be effective in preventing the growth and formation of new blood vessels beneath the macula. These drugs usually slow the progression of macular degeneration and in some cases helps patients regain a portion of previously lost central vision. Ophthalmologists also use laser therapy to damage and destroy abnormal blood vessels within the eye.
Routine eye exams are essential to maintaining good eye health and diagnosing eye diseases like macular degeneration before they have a chance to progress. Anyone experiencing dark or blurry vision or reduced color perception should see an eye doctor as soon as possible, as these symptoms could be signs of macular degeneration.