Aging makes us susceptible to many different diseases and conditions. One of these common conditions is called macular degeneration. Macular degeneration affects millions of people per year, and is a leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 50.
Macular degeneration is a common eye condition that causes damage to the macula. The macula is a small spot near the center of the retina, and is responsible for sharp, central vision. For some people, macular degeneration progresses slowly over a period of many years, and vision loss may not occur for a long time after diagnosis. For others, the condition may progress very quickly. This disease will not lead to complete blindness on its own, but can cause complete loss of central vision.
Age is the biggest risk factor for macular degeneration. This disease is most likely to occur in adults over the age of 60, but can occur earlier in some cases. Other risk factors include:
- Family history and genetics
- General bad health, obesity, and high blood pressure
Macular degeneration has two distinct stages:
Dry macular degeneration: Dry AMD is the early stage of the disease. Most of the time, Dry AMD is the result of aging and thinning of macular tissue, depositing of pigment in the macula, or a combination of the two. Gradual central vision loss may occur. There are currently no FDA-approved treatments for Dry AMD. Some possible treatment methods are in clinical trials.
Wet macular degeneration: Wet AMD occurs in about 10 percent of patients with Dry AMD. Wet AMD causes abnormal blood vessels to grow under the retina. These tiny blood vessels are weak and will begin to leak blood and fluid. This fluid leakage causes permanent damage to the light-sensitive retinal cells, which causes central blind spots.
Dry AMD currently has no available treatments. Some studies are being done on the effects that diet modifications may have on Dry AMD. Some studies have suggested that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the progression of AMD.
Wet AMD treatment is aimed at stopping abnormal blood vessel growth. Vision loss that has already occurred cannot be repaired, but doctors can reduce the risk of further vision loss. This can be done through the use of drugs such as Avastin, Lucentis, Eylea, Macugen, and Visudyne used with Photodynamic Therapy.
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What should you avoid if you have macular degeneration?
Avoid foods high in fat such as dairy, red meat, and fried foods. If you smoke, you should also try to quit since this can be a risk factor.
Does everyone with macular degeneration go blind?
Although macular degeneration can cause significant vision loss, it is rare that people go blind from it.
Can you have wet and dry macular degeneration in the same eye?
Yes, this is possible, but wet macular degeneration is less common.
Can you drive with macular degeneration?
It is possible that you will still be able to drive, especially during the early stages of macular degeneration. Some patients will find it easier to drive during the day than at night.
How long can you keep your sight with macular degeneration?
The rate of macular degeneration varies among patients, but dry macular degeneration will progress slower than wet macular degeneration.
What are early warning signs of macular degeneration?
Early warning signs include visual distortions, reduced central vision, the need for more light when doing work up-close, a blind spot in your vision, colors appearing duller, and difficulty recognizing faces.
Can anything slow down macular degeneration?
Taking vitamins, stopping smoking and scheduling regular eye exams with your doctor can help slow the progression of macular degeneration.
Can glasses help macular degeneration?
Although glasses will not directly cure macular degeneration, they can improve symptoms by helping you see clearer.
What are the stages of macular degeneration?
During the first stage, a buildup of fatty proteins called drusen will occur in the retina. Vision loss will not begin until the second, or intermediate stage. During this intermediate stage, large drusen will begin to form and mild vision loss may begin. Late stage macular degeneration will be diagnosed as dry or wet and involves vision loss.
What is the newest treatment for macular degeneration?
The FDA has recently approved an injectable eye medication called Vabysmo which will require less frequent injections to improve vision.
Can macular degeneration cause me to go blind?
Macular degeneration is a serious vision condition that can cause blindness. Early diagnosis and treatment is the best way to prevent significant vision loss.
Can macular degeneration be treated?
Yes. Treatments for macular degeneration should be administered by an ophthalmologist.