What is Macular Degeneration?
Age-related Macular Degeneration, sometimes referred to as AMD, is one of the leading causes of age-related vision loss, with over 10 million Americans suffering from the incurable disease. Those with macular degeneration may not realize they even have the disease until they’ve lost a portion of their vision.
Macular degeneration occurs when the center part of the retina, known as the macula, begins to deteriorate/degenerate (hence, macular degeneration!) The macula is the part of the eye that compiles images from our vision, and sends these images through the optic nerve up to the brain. With macular degeneration, the brain is unable to perceive these images correctly. When the macula deteriorates over time, you will begin to lose your central vision, and only be able to rely on your peripheral vision. There are two kinds of macular degeneration: dry and wet.
Dry Macular Degeneration
Dry macular degeneration is brought on by aging, when the tissues of the macular begin thinning, and deteriorating. Macular degeneration is characterized by a protein called drusen that develops under the retina. With the appearance of drusen, the macula becomes thinner, and loses its ability to function as it should. In dry macular degeneration, vision loss is gradual, and may not be noticed at first. Dry macular degeneration has no treatment, but it may be beneficial to start a vitamin therapy regimen.
Wet Macular Degeneration
Although it is significantly less common than dry AMD, wet macular degeneration can cause a great deal of damage to your vision. Wet macular degeneration is more dangerous for vision because irregular blood vessels begin to grow under the retina. These blood vessels are called choroidal neovascularization (CNV) and grown under the choroid. As these irregular blood vessels grow, they may leak blood or fluid into the eye. This can then lead to blurred or distorted central vision.
As macular degeneration develops, your eyes slowly lose their central vision. This process happens over time and painlessly, making it difficult to self-diagnose. Early signs of macular degeneration include:
- A dark spot in the middle of your vision
- Shadowy or fuzzy areas in the middle of your vision
- Distortion in the middle of your vision (straight lines will appear bent)
Researchers have found that those with the following lifestyles and traits have a higher chance of developing macular degeneration:
- Lack of exercise & obesity
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Age (over the age of 60)
Prevention & Treatment
Unfortunately, there is no cure for wet or dry macular degeneration. However, there are steps that you can take to slow the progression of the disease, including regular exercising, starting a healthy diet, avoiding smoking, and properly protecting your eyes from ultraviolet light. If you see signs of AMD, schedule your comprehensive eye exam with us immediately! Not only will your eye doctor perform a thorough exam to ensure overall eye health, but he or she will check for any warning signs of eye conditions including AMD. An eye exam with Eye Associates of Tallahassee could save your vision!
If you live in Tallahassee and are concerned that you may have macular degeneration, or you would like to learn more about the disease and treatment options, please schedule a consultation with one of our doctors at Eye Care Specialists of Tallahassee.