Your brain and eyes collaborate closely to help you see, so any breaks in the circuit could impair your vision.
The retina, a layer of tissue in the back of the eye, is fundamentally responsible for catching the light we perceive.
Macular degeneration is a condition when a section of the retina, more especially the macula, no longer functions as it should. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of visual loss in older people in the United States.
The capacity to clearly perceive objects is destroyed by macular degeneration, which affects the center of a person’s vision, which is normally the region of sharpest vision. Macular degeneration does not influence side or peripheral vision. Early cases can cause blurry vision, which can lead to a complete loss of sharp vision in more severe cases. Despite maintaining peripheral vision, individuals with severe macular degeneration are regarded as legally blind.
Different macular aging types
Wet and dry macular degeneration can both develop. Between 70 and 90 percent of cases—the great majority—are dry. The destruction of the macula and the supporting tissue distinguishes dry macular degeneration from other types. Before affecting both eyes, the disease may start in one eye. The capacity to read and identify faces could be impacted with time. Other signs include blurry vision and the requirement for bright lights in order to see well. However, total blindness is not a guaranteed consequence of dry macular degeneration.
Dry macular degeneration occurs more frequently than wet macular degeneration. Similar to dry macular degeneration, this disease type starts out slowly. Later, the macula may become flooded with blood or fluid from aberrant blood vessels that develop behind the retina. This type of macular degeneration can occur more quickly and be more serious. Wet macular degeneration is characterized by visual abnormalities, such as the appearance of crooked straight lines, black patches, and a reduced ability to see brilliant colors.
Macular degeneration progression stages
With time, macular degeneration worsens. Early, middle, and late are the three stages. The size and quantity of drusen—fatty, yellow deposits beneath the retina—which are used to classify these stages Despite not being the cause of macular degeneration, drusen increases your chances of developing the condition.
Early: Loss of vision is not likely at the time of early macular degeneration, when drusen are around the width of a human hair. A routine eye checkup is crucial since drusen can be found and measured there.
Intermediate: At this stage, the drusen are big and the retinal pigment may be changing. An eye exam is required because the alterations cannot be seen with the unaided eye. Despite the possibility, it could not be obvious if vision loss occurs during the intermediate period.
Late: Vision loss is noticeable in macular degeneration’s later stages. This loss of vision (wet) is caused by one of two things: either the macula and surrounding tissue deteriorating (drying out) or aberrant blood vessels leaking into the macula.
Risk factors and causes
Although the exact origin of macular degeneration is unknown, doctors think it may be due to a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Compared to people of other races and ethnicities, white people and those who are 55 or older tend to have macular degeneration more frequently.
A person’s risk is further enhanced if they have certain genes or a family history of macular degeneration. Your likelihood of getting the ailment is increased by around 50% if one of your parents or siblings has it.
Macular degeneration risk factors include smoking, being overweight, and having high blood pressure.
Process of diagnosis
A thorough dilated eye exam can identify macular degeneration. A retina specialist or ophthalmologist will enlarge your pupils and probably spot any alterations to the retina or macula, such as the emergence of drusen or changes in pigmentation. Your ophthalmologist will also perform a series of eye tests to check for the presence of aberrant blood vessels underneath the retina. Macular degeneration may be diagnosed if these anomalies are present.
Preventive measures and treatment alternatives
The loss of vision cannot be recovered with treatment for macular degeneration. Depending on the severity of the problem and whether it is wet or dry macular degeneration, several treatment options, including dietary modifications, vitamins, injections, and surgery, may be available.
A healthy lifestyle modification such as quitting smoking, eating a diet high in leafy greens and fatty fish, and exercising more may help prevent macular degeneration and may even reduce the disease’s progression.
Some vitamin supplements, like calcium, may reduce the progression of late-stage macular degeneration, according to the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) from 2020. However, before stocking up on vitamins, it’s crucial to see your doctor.
Other therapies for wet macular degeneration include photodynamic therapy and anti-VEGF injections. The problem won’t be cured by these treatments, but they might reduce the leakage from faulty blood vessels, which could stop further visual loss.
Over the course of several months, an injection of a medication that inhibits the formation of aberrant blood vessels may be given directly into the eye. To stop aberrant blood vessels’ openings from continuing to bleed into the retina, several kinds of lasers may also be employed to seal them off.
Even though poor vision rehabilitation may be helpful to many, not all treatment choices are risk-free for everyone. Macular degeneration typically doesn’t result in complete blindness, although it can make it more difficult to drive and read. You can develop strategies to cope with your changing eyesight with the aid of your ophthalmologist, rehabilitation specialist, and occupational therapist.