So You Have Macular Degeneration – What to Expect
There is no cure for macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss in those age 50 and up. However, there are treatments that can slow its progression. Dr. Gregory J. Johnson and Dr. Gail Kelley of Intracoastal Eye Care discuss what happens after a macular degeneration diagnosis.
The macula is the central part of the retina. Its function is collecting images and sending them to the brain. Once the macula starts degenerating, it stops receiving images correctly. Vision can become blurry and wavy, and blind spots may form.
Even advanced macular degeneration does not result in total blindness, as peripheral vision is retained. That vision is insufficient for driving, reading or viewing items in detail.
There are two types of macular degeneration. Most people have the dry type. Vision loss is slow as the light-sensitive cells in the macula deteriorate. The wet form, which leads to more severe vision loss, occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow beneath the retina. They then leak, and this leakage contributes to a large blind area in the visual field’s center.
Macular Degeneration Treatment
Treatment depends on the type of macular degeneration and patient history. Dry macular degeneration patients may not experience serious vision loss, or the condition may be confined to one eye. Certain lifestyle changes can help preserve existing vision. These include:
- Consuming a healthy diet and avoiding processed foods.
- Always wear sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays when outdoors. A lifetime of wearing sunglasses outside reduces the odds of developing macular degeneration.
- Do not smoke. Avoid secondhand smoke exposure.
For the wet form, direct injections into the eye of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) agents can combat some of the damage. High levels of VEGF protein in the eye contribute to abnormal blood vessel formation. Multiple injections over time are necessary. In most patients, vision improves after treatment .
Living With Macular Degeneration
Living with macular degeneration may prove challenging as the disease progresses. More than eyesight is affected, as vision impacts your family, work and social life. If necessary, speak with a counselor about the emotional changes you are going through.
Install brighter lights in your home or workspace to help you see better. Use a magnifying glass when reading. You might want to redecorate your home with the idea of using contrasting shades to help you navigate. For instance, if your walls are white, replace pale light switch covers with dark ones.
Certain nutritional supplements may slow macular degeneration progression. Look for Age-Related Disease Study (AREDs) vitamin formulations, available by prescription and over-the-counter.
If your vision is changing, you need a definitive diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Schedule a personal consultation at Intracoastal Eye with Dr. Gregory J. Johnson or Dr. Gail Kelley.