What Is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is an eye disease that occurs when there are changes to the macula. The macula is a small portion of the retina that is located on the inside back layer of the eye. It reduces central vision and makes seeing details for close work, like reading or sewing, difficult or impossible. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among people over age 50.
What Causes Macular Degeneration?
There are two types of age-related macular degeneration. In the "dry," or atrophic type, the tissue of the macular becomes thin and stops functioning properly. This is thought to occur as part of the aging process, and vision loss is usually gradual. "Wet," or exudative macular degeneration is less common and results when fluids leak from newly formed blood vessels under the macula and blur central vision. Vision loss from the "wet" form can be rapid and severe.
What Are Signs/Symptoms of Macular Degeneration?
Some signs/symptoms of macular degeneration are:
- A gradual loss of the ability to see objects clearly
- Objects appear to be distorted in shape and straight lines appear wavy or crooked
- A loss of clear color vision
- A dark or empty area appearing in the center of vision
In the early stages, signs/symptoms of macular degeneration may not be noticeable, so regular eye examinations are important in early detection.
How Is Macular Degeneration Diagnosed?
The signs/symptoms of macular degeneration can also indicate other eye health problems, so if you experience any of them, you should contact your doctor of optometry immediately. In a thorough eye examination, your optometrist can perform a variety of tests to determine if you have macular degeneration or other eye health problems.
How Is Macular Degeneration Treated?
There is no cure for "dry" macular degeneration; nor can central vision lost to macular degeneration be restored. However, doctors now believe that there is a link between nutrition and the progression of "dry" macular degeneration. They suggest that a low-fat diet, rich in dark-green leafy vegetables, including spinach, some types of leaf lettuce, and broccoli, can slow vision loss due to macular degeneration. There are also nutritional supplements that may be beneficial. Ask your doctor of optometry about your individual case. Since macular degeneration does not affect side vision, low-vision aids such as telescopic and microscopic lenses, magnifying glasses, illuminated magnifiers and closed-circuit television systems can be prescribed to help make the most effective use of remaining vision.
If It is detected early, the "wet" form of macular degeneration can be treated with laser treatment, often referred to as photocoagulation, in which a highly focused beam of light is used to seal the leaking blood vessels that damage the macula. This is not a permanent cure, but it can be used to slow the rate of central vision loss. Low-vision aids can also be prescribed for people with this form of macular degeneration.
This information provided by the American Optometric Association (AOA). To find out more, visit their website at www.aoa.org.