Macular Degeneration: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

what is macular degeneration

If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with macular degeneration this post will help you to understand the disease, symptoms, treatment and answer frequently asked questions.

As many as 15 million Americans are affected by age-related Macular Degeneration or AMD. Macular degeneration is a disease of the retina or the neural tissue that lines the inside of the eyewall and contains the light-sensing cells of the eye. AMD is an irreversible condition that causes loss of sight in your central field of vision. This means that what was once clear in your straightforward line of sight may gradually appear blurry or dim. What was once crisp vision may eventually degrade to low vision.

If you are in search of macular degeneration doctors, Discover Vision has fellowship-trained retina specialists who can monitor and treat this serious eye condition.

What Is Macular Degeneration?

The macula is the most important part of the retina and is responsible for our central reading and everyday vision. With macular degeneration, the affected cells in the macula eventually break down and lose the ability to function.

There is no cure for macular degeneration. However, comprehensive eye exams are extremely important in helping to detect this eye disease. Although it cannot be reversed, your eye doctor can help to prevent it from worsening or to slow down the progression of AMD.

What Are the Symptoms of Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration is considered a progressive disease which means that it worsens over time. The amount of time it may take symptoms of AMD to appear varies for each individual person.

Because the macula is responsible for seeing fine details in your central field of vision, noticeable effects include blurring and distortion of letters and other objects. Common symptoms include:

Types of Macular Degeneration

is macular degeneration hereditary

There are 2 types of AMD: dry and wet. Dry AMD, the most common type, is found in 90% of people with macular degeneration. Wet AMD, the more severe type, is found in only 10%.

Wet Macular Degeneration

Although only affecting 10% of patients, without treatment wet AMD is a severe and quickly progressive condition. Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow beneath the retina and begin leaking fluid and blood. It is known as wet AMD due to this fluid process. For patients who have wet AMD, this can result in a large blind spot in the central field of vision and more severe vision loss. Fortunately, there are treatments for wet AMD that can drastically alter the course of this disease.

Dry Macular Degeneration

Dry AMD is the most common type of macular degeneration, found in 90% of cases. Dry AMD affects your central field of vision. In most people, it affects both eyes, but in some people, it may only have an effect on one eye. In dry AMD, a gradual thinning or breakdown of the macula occurs. This is caused by drusen, or fatty protein, that builds up under the retina. Small drusen deposits may not cause serious vision problems, but larger or more numerous drusen increases your risk for AMD. Because the retina contains light-sensing cells that are essential to your vision, drusen accumulation leads to a slow and gradual loss of vision. The exact cause of dry AMD is unknown, but research indicates that genetics and other environmental factors may play a significant role.

Which Is Worse Dry or Wet Macular Degeneration?

Out of the two types of age-related macular degeneration, dry AMD is more gradual. Dry AMD symptoms are slower to appear with less noticeable loss of vision over time. Although wet AMD is rare, the symptoms are worse. This type of macular degeneration leads to more severe vision loss.

What Causes Macular Degeneration

As we age, so do our eyes. Unfortunately, age is the biggest risk factor for developing macular degeneration. AMD is more likely to occur in those over the age of 55. 

Your risk of developing macular degeneration may increase due to the following factors:

How to Slow Age Related Macular Degeneration

what causes macular degeneration

While we cannot prevent macular degeneration from occurring, it is possible to lower your risk of AMD and slow its progression. 

Recommendations to reduce your risk of macular degeneration:

Age-Related Macular Degeneration Diagnosis

To diagnose age-related macular degeneration, a comprehensive eye exam should be performed by your eye doctor. During the eye exam, you should plan to share your complete medical history. The following tests may be performed in order to properly diagnose whether you have AMD, and if so, which type:

Amsler Grid Test

how to prevent macular degeneration

An Amsler Grid is often used to test the progression of macular degeneration. An Amsler Grid is a square-shaped grid that looks like graph paper containing horizontal and vertical lines with a black dot in the very center. For someone who does not have AMD, you will see exactly what was just described. However, with advanced stages of macular degeneration, you may see missing boxes, a blurred spot in the center of the grid, or distorted, and wavy lines. 

Treatment of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

AMD is not a curable condition, but it is a treatable condition. Treatment methods include the use of intravitreal injections, photodynamic therapy, and laser procedures. The following options are recommended to help slow down AMD and monitor its progression at the earliest stages:

Dry AMD

Wet AMD

Want to Speak with an Expert?

Our ophthalmologists and optometrists can help you understand the treatment options that are most suitable for your condition. New methods to prevent or delay AMD are currently being studied. To find out about the latest treatments for macular degeneration, call Discover Vision at 816-478-1230 today or request an appointment online.

FAQ

Does macular degeneration cause blindness?

Macular degeneration attacks the central field of vision. While it can result in severe vision loss, AMD rarely leads to total blindness. Because it affects the center of your vision, it can make routine activities, such as reading and driving, extremely difficult or dangerous.

Does stress cause macular degeneration?

Studies have shown that the effect of stress and AMD may be cyclical. AMD is an inflammatory eye condition and stress can cause inflammation. In general, vision loss can lead to stress and anxiety.

Can glasses correct macular degeneration?

Glasses help to correct refractive errors, also known as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism. However, glasses cannot correct macular degeneration.

Can LASIK fix macular degeneration?

LASIK is performed on the cornea and is a great option for anyone who suffers from myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism. LASIK cannot fix macular degeneration which stems from deterioration of the retina.


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