Macular degeneration leads to permanent vision loss in senior people. Optometrists recommend keeping an eye on the symptoms of the chronic disease. Early detection is necessary for effective treatment, which involves medical procedures, eye medication, and certain lifestyle changes.
Studies have shown that around 18% of the world population develops macular degeneration after crossing 50 years of age. The disease affects the macula, which is the central region of the retina. This is the inner layer of tissue located at the back of your eye, which is light sensitive.
Your retina allows you to see whereas macula promotes straight-ahead vision. Moreover, aging deteriorates macula and central sharp vision affecting your ability to visualize details steadily. As a result, you become unable to drive, read, and several daily tasks. In addition, macular degeneration leads to legal blindness whereas chances of total blindness are fewer in this case.
Types of Macular Degeneration
Take note that this disease has two types, such as:
- Dry macular degeneration
- Wet macular degeneration
1. Dry Macular Degeneration
In this condition, the tissue of your retina shrinks and pigments buildup in it. It is also the common kind of the disease.
2. Wet Macular Degeneration
People who encounter dry macula are likely to develop wet type later. In this case, new blood vessels grow either on the back of macula or around it. There are chances of bleeding as well. These materials come in contact with retina and remain in your macula. This condition is also known as an exudate. It leaves scar once it disappears.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is a painless disease. In the dry macular degeneration, the center vision of your eye begins to blur gradually. It allows you to see colors but without details. Moreover, it often takes years to happen. That is why initial signs of the onset go unnoticed specifically when other eye works fine.
Macular degeneration affects one eye at the beginning and after a couple of years, it starts affecting your second eye. Studies concluded that vision loss is prompt in the case of wet macular degeneration. It vanishes in a short time span leaving a giant blind spot. You can detect this type of macular degeneration when the lines in your view field appear wavy. This occurs due to the leakage of fluid from new blood vessels in the macula deforming its shape.
You should know that the wet type of macular degeneration affects one eye at a time. Some of the other symptoms are:
- It gets difficult to perform tasks that need fine vision
- The need for bright light during close-up work
- The appearance of empty spaces and dark patches in your view
- Difficulty in recognizing faces
- The appearance of a straight line as crooked or wavy
- The increase of central vision cloudiness
- Difficulty in working or seeing in low-intensity lighting
- Reduce the brightness of colors
Causes of Macular Degeneration
Aging is considered a primary factor that contributes to this debilitating eye disorder. It is usually referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) as well. Exact causes of the disease are unknown. However, the following are a few factors associated with this eye condition.
- Health expert revealed that women are vulnerable to macular degeneration than men.
- Obesity is another leading cause of macular degeneration.
- Smoking deteriorates your health significantly which ultimately lead to AMD.
- It is also common in heart patients. 33% of sufferers of cardiac arrest are likely to develop wet macular degeneration.
- Genes and environment play a crucial role in the onset of macular degeneration as well.
Tests of Macular Degeneration
Your optometrist will run a thorough eye examination followed by questions related to family history of the disease and changes in the vision. The initial of the tests usually include visual acuity (measurement of the sharpness of your vision). In the process, the eye specialist will look for the signs of macular degeneration when examining your retina. These tests are completed following a series of steps, such as:
- The eye doctor will opt for fluorescein angiography (FA) to measure the size of unusual blood vessels. This procedure involves injecting fluorescein (a dye) into your arm. Pictures are taken to monitor the passing of dye through your retinal vessels. This test also works as a guide for WET AMD treatment.
- Dry AMD is detected via the irregularities of the retina pigmentation. Large drusen put you at the risk of vision loss whereas a small one is easier to treat.
- Your eye specialist will also examine your eyes for the signs of wet AMD. This process is done using optical coherence tomography (OCT).
- Advanced dry AMD Geographic atrophy is used to see the pigmented layer of your retina.
Treatment of Macular Degeneration
Optometrists discussed that there no treatment available to cure dry macular degeneration, currently. You can find various ways to treat wet macular degeneration. It is worth noting that this condition does not heal completely. The treatments, however, maintain your vision for an extended period. Some of the common treatments of macular degeneration are:
§ Photodynamic Therapy
This therapy activates medication using a light. After activation, this medication stops leaking of the abnormal blood vessels.
In this treatment, the high-frequency laser beam is used to dismantle and seal leaking fluid in your blood vessels in your macula.
Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) drugs are used to impede the leaking and development of the new blood vessels in your retina.
§ Changes in Lifestyle
Your lifestyle can prevent the onset of the disease. If you have already developed macular degeneration, these changes will reduce the chances of vision loss.
- Maintain body weight and exercise regularly
- Quit smoking and alcohol consumption
- Visit your eye specialist after every six months
- Control other diseases such as high blood cholesterol, cardiovascular diseases, and high blood pressure
- Use olive oil for cooking and salad dressing
- Consume organic fruits and leafy greens
- Consume zinc, vitamin A, C, and E supplements after consulting your doctor
- Protect your eyes from ultraviolet rays (UV)
No question, macular degeneration affects senior people. There are treatments available but the chances of getting rid of the dreadful condition are fewer. Therefore, we suggest opting for safety precautions and developing healthy habits in young age to prevent the occurrence of chronic diseases, like AMD.