Learning More About: Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration: Symptoms You Can See, Treatment You Can Understand.

Macular Degeneration Overview:

Diagram: Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration is an eye disease that affects the portion of the eye responsible for processing fine detail and providing sharp central vision (called the macula).

As a disease usually associated with aging, macular degeneration is also called age-related macular degeneration (AMD), though there are other, less common types of macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration symptoms include a gradual loss of central vision needed to perform everyday tasks like driving or reading, and a reduced ability to see small visual details like fine print or patterns.

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in Americans over age 60, and presents itself in two forms: dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration. Of the two, the "dry" form is far more common. Both affect the center region of the retina, the light-sensitive area in the back of the eye responsible for processing images we see.

Macular Degeneration Symptoms:

Macular degeneration symptoms vary based on the particular form of the disease (dry or wet), and the stage the disease at the time it is discovered.

Dry macular degeneration symptoms include: consistent, slightly blurred vision within your central visual field. You may have difficulty in recognizing faces. And have a sudden need for more light while reading or working. The dry form of this disease gets progressively worse, over time. Early detection of dry macular degeneration is critical to long-term treatment.

Wet macular degeneration symptoms include: a distortion of straight lines and an inability to focus properly on a single point within a grid. Wet macular degeneration is an advanced stage of the disease, and often results in blind spots and loss of centralized vision.

Macular Degeneration Treatment:

There is currently no treatment for dry macular degeneration. Wet Macular degeneration treatment options exist that can slow the progress of the disease or improve vision based on the type of macular degeneration you are experiencing. To understand the risks and the limitations of all macular degeneration treatments, speak frankly with your eye doctor.

Dry macular degeneration treatment actually begins with routine eye exams, especially after age 60. The goal here is to catch the development of AMD early. If detected, you may be prescribed a specific mix of high-dose zinc and antioxidants that have shown an ability to slow the progression of the disease. Wet macular degeneration treatment can include a number of options; including laser surgery, light-activated dyes that are injected into the circulatory system, or drugs injected directly into the eye that inhibit the growth of abnormal blood vessels that cause the wet form of the disease. With any macular degeneration treatment, there are no guarantees that the disease can be stopped, no promises that a treatment won’t need to be repeated, and a sobering reminder that vision, once lost, is rarely restored.

Macular Degeneration Statistics:

Currently, macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in persons over age 60. Caucasians are far more likely to lose vision from AMD than African Americans, and studies show that obesity, smoking, and exposure to UV rays may also be risk factors for developing the disease.

Macular degeneration tends to affect women more than men, and has also been linked to heredity. Nearly 90% of all diagnosed AMD is the dry form.

The information seen here is for reference purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or to diagnose or prescribe any specific treatment(s). For all questions and concerns about your vision, eye health and potential eye problems, please consult an eyecare professional.

Special thanks to the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, for source material that aided in the creation of this website. Visit the NEI/NIH website.

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