Macular Degeneration Causes, Treatment, and Prevention
Macular degeneration is the most common cause of irreversible vision loss in older people. This disorder occurs when the central part of the retina deteriorates, often affecting vision. There are two forms of macular degeneration: the dry form and the wet form. The dry form is much more common than the wet form. However, vision loss is typically much more severe with the wet form. It is essential for people with macular degeneration to monitor their eyesight and visit their eye care practitioner regularly.
Macular degeneration may not cause any symptoms at first; by the time the person notices a problem, it is likely to have progressed considerably or affected both eyes. The first symptom that people usually notice is blurred vision and a dim or dark spot in the center of the field of vision. The spot may become darker or larger over time.
The cause of macular degeneration depends on the type of macular degeneration you have. Age-related macular degeneration, as the name suggests, is related to getting older. The exact causes depend on whether you have dry or wet macular degeneration.
- Dry macular degeneration: Most cases of age-related macular degeneration are “dry,” – up to 90%. This condition occurs when bits of fat and protein, known as drusen, collect under the retina, affecting vision. Drusen start small but become larger as the condition advances. Vision loss in dry macular degeneration is usually more gradual than, and not as severe as, that of the wet form.
- Wet macular degeneration: This form of the condition happens when new blood vessels form underneath the macula in the eye. These new blood vessels can leak blood into the eye, causing damage to the retina and vision loss.
Age is not the only factor in either type of macular degeneration. Other risk factors include having a family history of the disorder, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, UV exposure, and obesity. Also, females with light skin and light-colored eyes have a higher risk of developing the disorder.
Macular degeneration has no cure, but there are several treatments that can help slow its progression and limit vision loss. Some of these treatments include:
- Anti-angiogenic drugs. These drugs are injected into the eye to stop new blood vessels from forming and help block any leaking from existing blood vessels. There have been cases of people regaining some of their lost vision when using anti-angiogenic drugs.
- Laser therapy. One possible treatment involves a high-energy laser that may destroy abnormal blood vessels that are actively growing.
- Studies indicate some slow in progression for people with macular degeneration who consume a special supplement formula containing vitamins C and E, copper,macular carotenoids such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin, omega-3, and zinc.
- Low vision aids. There are also devices with special electronic systems or lenses designed to enlarge the appearance of nearby objects, improve the visibility of distant objects and increase contrast overall.
Although there is no known cure for macular degeneration, there are many things you can do to keep your risk as low as possible. For the best odds of preventing this disease, be sure to:
- Avoid smoking
- Eat a diet rich in dark, leafy greens such as spinach, as well as fruits and nuts
- Take a daily vitamin supplement as well as fish oil (unless your doctor advises otherwise)
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Protect your eyes outdoors with sunglasses that block UV rays
- Have regular eye exams to catch any potential problems early and give yourself the best odds of successful treatment
If you have any questions or would like to schedule an eye examination, contact Weston Contact Lens Institute today.