What is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is an age-related deterioration of the macular area of the retina, causing central vision loss. It is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and it is the leading cause of blindness of people over the age of 65.
The macula, a small spot near the center of the retina, is comprised of millions of light-sensitive cells that are responsible for providing clear vision of objects directly in front of us. When the macula becomes damaged, or deteriorates, the central field of vision becomes blurry, distorted, or dark and impacts one’s ability to complete simple everyday tasks such as reading, writing, house work, driving and even seeing faces.
Who’s at Risk of Macular Degeneration?
Macular Degeneration is often tied closely with age, putting adults age 65 and over at an increased risk. Other factors that can increase risk include a family history of the eye disease and smoking. Studies show smoking actually doubles a person’s risk of macular degeneration. Additionally, Caucasians have a higher risk than African Americans and Latinos.
Types of Macular Degeneration:
There are two forms of the eye disease, Wet AMD and Dry AMD.
Wet AMD: This form is far less common, only affecting about 10 – 15% of those who have the eye disease, but accounts for the majority of individuals that suffer serious vision loss. This form of AMD occurs when the oxygen supply to the macula is disrupted causing the body to respond by growing new blood vessels, which are often abnormal, and cause scarring of the macula. Once the macula is damaged, vision cannot be restored.
Dry AMD: Characterized by the presence of drusen, or small crystalline deposits in the Bruchs membrane layer of the retina. The deposits cause the macula to thin, reducing the number of light-sensitive cells and thus clarity of central vision. This form of AMD occurs overtime and is not as severe as Wet AMD. Dry AMD is often referred to as “atrophic AMD”.
Detection and Treatment of Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration can only be detected during a comprehensive eye exam. If you are at risk for AMD it is critically that you discuss you condition with your eye doctor. It may be necessary to visit your optometrist more frequently than once a year.
Currently there are no proven treatment options for AMD. Studies show daily exercise and a diet rich with fruits and leafy green vegetables may help protect against the disease.
We follow our macular degeneration patients closely with specialized technological equipment, recommend the most current therapies for prevention, and refer to retinal specialist for surgical treatments when necessary. If you think you may be at risk of macular degeneration, make an eye care appointment today to speak with one of our experienced eye doctors.