Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over age 60. The macula is the central part of the retina and is responsible for sharp central vision. With age, the macula can deteriorate, causing significant visual disability, including affecting ability to read, drive and see clearly. With macular degeneration total blindness rarely occurs, as side vision is unaffected, but ability to see straight ahead can be lost.
Macular degeneration is typically a hereditary disease, though smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and being light-skinned are also risk factors for the disease. Women are more likely than men to develop macular degeneration. Symptoms of the disease include dark, blurry spots in the center of vision; diminished or changed color perception and straight lines appearing wavy.
Treatment for macular degeneration depends on the type of degeneration and range from nutritional supplements to laser treatment. There are two main types of age-related macular degeneration: dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration.
Dry Macular Degeneration
The more common of the two types of macular degeneration, this form is characterized by the presence of yellow deposits, called drusen, in the macula. Drusen is thought to be debris from the deteriorating macular tissue. As drusen grow in size and number, they can cause dimming or distortion of vision, most noticeable when reading. As dry macular degeneration progresses, atrophy or tissue death may occur in the light-sensitive layer of cells in the macula. It is in the atrophy stage that patients experience blind spots in the center of their vision. In more advanced stages of the disease, central vision may be lost.
Wet Macular Degeneration
This form of macular degeneration accounts for only about 10 percent of cases, but it accounts for the majority of cases of serious vision loss from macular degeneration. Wet macular degeneration is characterized by the growth of abnormal blood vessels underneath the macula. These abnormal blood vessels can leak blood and fluid into the retina, causing distortion of vision. They may also lead to scarring which can result in permanent loss of central vision.
Treatment for Macular Degeneration
Patients diagnosed with either form of macular degeneration should closely monitor their vision and see their eye doctor regularly. Changes in diet to include more green, leafy vegetables, vitamins and supplements may be recommended to patients with age-related macular degeneration. Treatment for wet macular degeneration may include the prescription of medication or therapy such as Avastin to block the development of new blood vessels and leaking from existing abnormal blood vessels in the eye. Laser therapy or submacular surgery may be performed to remove abnormal blood vessels underneath the macula.
Early and timely treatment is most critical in preventing vision loss. If you are over age 60 and have not had a routine comprehensive eye exam in the last year, contact the eye doctors at Key-Whitman to schedule your comprehensive eye exam today. We have four convenient locations in Dallas, Plano, north Arlington and south Arlington. See you soon!