How Macular Degeneration Degrades Your Eye Health
Macular degeneration affects more than 10 million people in the United States. That’s more than glaucoma and cataracts combined, but this lesser-known eye disease can permanently steal your central vision with few warning signs. Intracoastal Eye can identify the early symptoms of macular degeneration during regular eye exams.
Why is Macular Degeneration a Leading Cause of Vision Loss?
Macular degeneration deals with the retina, which records visual data and transmits it through the optic nerve for the brain to create images. At the center of the retina is the macula, responsible for focusing your central vision. The macula allows you to read, drive a motor vehicle and recognize the faces of your family and friends. You see fine detail and colors thanks to this sensitive tissue inside your eye.
Think of the macula as the film in an old camera. When the macula is damaged, it can’t receive images correctly, creating wavy lines and blurry eyesight as the macula degrades. That is similar to how exposed film leads to blurry, blown-out or dark spots on prints — only those spots are your central field of vision. People with advanced macular degeneration are often considered legally blind, though they still retain some peripheral (side) vision.
Dry Macular Degeneration vs. Wet Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration has two forms: wet and dry. Dry is the most common type and occurs when “drusen” (yellow deposits in the retina) thins and dries out the macula, reducing its function. The amount of vision loss depends on the location and quantity of drusen. Someone with dry macular degeneration may maintain some central vision but have difficulty reading, driving at night or seeing in low-lit environments.
Wet macular degeneration occurs in about 10 to 15 percent of cases. It starts when abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula and retina and bleed into the eye. The excess fluid lifts and bulges the macula that normally lays flat, causing vision distortions and central vision loss. Someone with wet macular degeneration will likely see dark spots in the middle of their eyesight and view straight lines as wavy. This variation of the eye disease can progress rapidly and severely degrade your ocular health.
Causes and Treatments for Macular Degeneration
Scientists don’t understand what causes the deterioration of the macula. You are more likely to develop the condition if someone in your family has it; if you are Caucasian; or if you are a smoker. There is no cure, but lifestyle changes may reduce your risk, including quitting smoking, following a balanced diet, exercising and protecting your eyes. For more advanced stages of dry macular degeneration, certain antioxidant supplements can help slow the progression of vision loss. Wet macular degeneration is often treatable with medications placed directly inside the eye.
If you are experiencing vision changes or it’s time for your annual eye exam, contact Intracoastal Eye in Wilmington to schedule your appointment today.