Macular Degeneration

Mascular Degeneration
Mascular Degeneration

Overview Of Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a medical condition typically prevalent in older people that may result in blurred or no vision in the center of one’s vision. The macula is a highly sensitive area located in the center of the retina, which allows you to read small print and shapes.

When the macula is healthy, it gathers detailed images in the center of your vision and sends them to the optic nerve and then to the brain to be interpreted as sight. When the cells of the macula break down, the images are not received correctly. In the beginning stages, the disease does not affect vision, but as it gets worse, people have blurred vision. If it progresses further, people can lose their central vision completely and may become legally blind. However, because the rest of the retina still functions properly, those with macular degeneration still have their peripheral vision, but it is not as clear as central vision. In older people, the condition goes by the more specific name age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Macular degeneration is responsible for more vision loss than glaucoma and cataracts combined. 

Causes Of Macular Degeneration

The cause of macular degeneration is unknown, but we do know that changes in retina structure and function take place as the eye ages, which are related to the development of macular degeneration. Environmental, genetic, and lifestyle factors such as smoking and diet may play a role in its development.


Signs and Symptoms

Macular degeneration is not painful. Symptoms usually develop slowly and may include:

  • Trouble reading or doing things that require the ability to see small details
  • Need for extra light when doing close-up work or reading
  • Difficulty seeing in and adapting to low light
  • Perceiving less vibrance or saturation in colors 
  • Slow increase in clouded central vision
  • Distorted vision (i.e., straight lines look crooked or wavy)
  • Difficulty recognizing people’s faces
  • Dark or empty spots in central vision

If you have any of these symptoms – especially changes in the central vision, colors losing their vibrancy, and inability to see fine details – contact your optometrist or ophthalmologist as soon as possible. The key to reducing vision loss and potentially improving vision is early detection and treatment.

Treatment Of Macular Degeneration

Treatment Of AMD In The Elderly

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) must be treated by ophthalmologists immediately to stop it from progressing and minimize vision loss. There is currently no cure for AMD, but early detection is the best way to save someone’s sight.

Treatment varies depending on the type of AMD.

Dry AMD – No treatment available, but vision aids can help. Mineral supplements and antioxidants have shown to help slow progression of AMD.

Wet AMD – Regular eye injections may be needed. A light treatment called “photodynamic therapy” can stop vision from declining.


The Two Types of Macular Degeneration

Dry AMD and Wet AMD

Dry AMD (also known as Non-Exudative AMD) – Dry AMD occurs when the blood vessels in the eyes do not leak. It is usually present in both eyes and worsens over the years. Early on, there are few symptoms. Vision is typically lost in intermediate to late stages of development. In some cases, only one eye is affected and these people tend to have vision changes sooner as the other eye compensates.

Wet AMD (also known as Exudative AMD) – Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow in the eye and leak below the macula. The leaking and bleeding cause permanent vision loss. In some cases, people have Dry AMD that leads to Wet AMD.

Age-related macular degeneration has three distinct stages. They are:

  • Early AMD: No vision loss in this stage of the disease, but it may be found in an eye exam if an ophthalmologist finds yellow deposits under the retina. Early detection is the best way to prevent or slow progression of the disease.
  • Intermediate AMD: There may be some vision loss in this stage, but it will be mild. An eye exam will detect changes in the retina. 
  • Late-stage AMD: Vision loss occurs in the center of the field of vision.