Macular degeneration is the leading cause of central loss among older people. Inside the eye, at the back near the retina, is a small area called the macula: it is what helps us see fine details. When the macula doesn’t function correctly due to damage or breakdown of the tissue, blurriness or darkness in the center of the vision occurs. This is macular degeneration and makes activities-like threading a needle or reading difficult to impossible. The macula is many times more sensitive than the rest of the retina and without a healthy macula, seeing detail or vivid color is not possible.
Macular degeneration, both wet and dry types occurs as a natural part of aging process. Most people have “dry” macular degeneration where the tissues thin and vision loss is gradual. “Wet” macular degeneration occurs in 10 percent of cases. It is a abnormal blood vessels leak fluid or blood and blur central vision. The effects may be rapid and severe.
Different people experience different symptoms. It may be hardly noticeable in its early stages and sometimes only one may be affected. When both eyes begin to degenerate the loss of central vision may be noticed more quickly. Many people do not realize they have a macular problem until:
- words printed on a page look blurred
- dark or empty area appearing in the center of vision
- a gradual loss ability to see objects clearly
- distorted vision- objects appear to be the wrong size or shape or straight lines appear wavy or crooked
These symptoms may also indicate other eye health problems, so if you are experiencing any of these, you should schedule a comprehensive eye examination immediately. The comprehensive eye examination should include:
- Dilated fundus evaluation- an examination of the back of he eye to observe the health of the retina specifically the macula. Optometrist will evaluate with a Volk 90 lens providing highly magnified view and assessment of the macula.
- Optical Coherence Tomography- is an imaging techniques that uses coherent light capture micrometer resolution or high resolution imaging of the macula. This assessment can determine the severity of dry vs wet macular degeneration. Leakage of fluid or blood may be determined requiring immediate treatment and loss of vision.
- Retinal Photography -is mainly used to monitor the progression of the retina specifically the macula.
Despite continued ongoing research there is no cure for dry macular degeneration: instead, people are being helped to find ways to cope with visual impairment. Your Optometrist will provide resources available for services to enhance your lifestyle. In early stages, wet macular degeneration can be assessed by a Retinal Specialist who may select most commonly known as Anti- VEGF Injections. These injections seal leaking blood vessels and/or improve vision for many patients facing this blinding disease.
Preventive nutrition has been shown to slow down or reverse the effects of macular degeneration and improve vision. Your Optometrist will provide you with the most current formula of dietary supplement during your comprehensive eye examination. A diet rich in green vegetables will be recommended.
Avoidance of smoking will be strongly be recommended and is the largest modifiable risk factor for macular degeneration.