Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a deterioration or breakdown of the eye’s macula. The macula is a small area in the retina – the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. The macula is the part of the retina that is responsible for your central vision, adiposity allowing you to see fine details clearly.

The macula makes up only a small part of the retina, search yet it is much more sensitive to detail than the rest of the retina (called the peripheral retina). The macula is what allows you to thread a needle, ampoule read small print, and read street signs. The peripheral retina gives you side (or peripheral) vision. If someone is standing off to one side of your vision, your peripheral retina helps you know that person is there by allowing you to see their general shape. Many older people develop macular degeneration as part of the body’s natural aging process. There are different kinds of macular problems, but the most common is age-related macular degeneration.

One symptom of macular degeneration is dark areas in your central vision.

With macular degeneration, you may have symptoms such as blurriness, dark areas or distortion in your central vision, and perhaps permanent loss of your central vision. It usually does not affect your side, or peripheral vision. For example, with advanced macular degeneration, you could see the outline of a clock, yet may not be able to see the hands of the clock to tell what time it is.

There are two types of macular degeneration:

Dry macular degeneration Most people who have macular degeneration have the dry form. This condition is caused by aging and thinning of the tissues of the macula. Macular degeneration usually begins when tiny yellow or white pieces of fatty protein called drusen form under the retina. Eventually, the macula may become thinner and stop working properly.

With dry macular degeneration, vision loss is usually gradual. People who develop dry macular degeneration must carefully and constantly monitor their central vision. If you notice any changes in your vision, you should tell your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) right away, as the dry form can change into the more damaging form of macular degeneration called wet (exudative) macular degeneration. While there is no medication or treatment for dry macular degeneration, some people may benefit from a vitamin therapy regimen for dry macular degeneration.

Wet macular degeneration About 10 percent of people who have macular degeneration have the wet form, but it can cause more damage to your central or detail vision than the dry form.

Wet macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels begin to grow underneath the retina. This blood vessel growth is called choroidal neovascularization (CNV) because these vessels grow from the layer under the retina called the choroid. These new blood vessels may leak fluid or blood, blurring or distorting central vision.

Also, if abnormal blood vessel growth happens in one eye, there is a risk that it will occur in the other eye. The earlier that wet macular degeneration is diagnosed and treated, the better chance you have of preserving some or much of your central vision. That is why it is so important that you and your ophthalmologist monitor your vision in each eye carefully.

Treatment The Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) showed that among people at high risk for developing late-stage, or wet, macular degeneration (such as those who have large amounts of drusen or who have significant vision loss in at least one eye), taking a dietary supplement, including among other things lutein and zeaxanthin, lowered the risk of macular degeneration progressing to advanced stages by at least 25 percent. It is very important to remember that vitamin supplements are not a cure for macular degeneration, nor will they give you back vision that you may have already lost from the disease. However, specific amounts of these supplements do play a key role in helping some people at high risk for developing advanced (wet) AMD to maintain their vision. Talk with your ophthalmologist to find out if you are at risk for developing advanced macular degeneration, and to learn if supplements are recommended for you.

At Caplan Eye Clinic, we are committed to helping preserve your vision. Call for an eye evaluation to see if you might have macular degeneration or have an increased risk of getting this sight-stealing disease. If you are diagnosed with macular degeneration, you should see our retinal specialist, Dr. Sean Hendricks, at regular intervals.

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