Macular degeneration is the main cause, or one of the leading causes, of severe and irreversible vision loss in people who are over age 60. Macular degeneration is happening when the small central portion of the retina (known as macula) deteriorates. Retina is located at the back of the eye and this is the light – sensing nerve tissue. This condition develops as people are getting older and often it is referred as AMD (age – related macular degeneration). In the most cases, this type of disease is almost never a totally blinding condition but it can be source of significant visual disability.
Macular degeneration signs and symptoms
When the macular degeneration is in its early stages, then it may not have symptoms and it can be unrecognized until it progresses or affects the both eyes. A blurred vision with a dim, blurry spot in the middle of your vision is usually the first sign of macular degeneration. As the time passes, this spot can get bigger or darker. Here are some symptoms of macular degeneration:
- Diminished or changed color perception
- Dark, blurry areas in the center of vision
If you have noticed some of the mentioned symptoms, then you should talk with an eye specialist as soon as possible. Your doctor can detect the macular degeneration when he or she makes a routine eye exam. Your doctor can see if you have drusen. Drusen is one of the most common early signs of this disease. Drusen is tiny yellow deposits under the retina. But also the pigment clumping is sign of early stages of macular degeneration so your doctor can see if you have it.
Types: It is known that there are 2 main types of macular degeneration:
- Dry form: In this type of macular degeneration there are yellow deposits known as drusen which are located in the macula. When there are few small drusen, then they may not cause changes in the vision but as they grow in size and increase in number, then they can lead to a dimming or distortion of vision which is most noticeable when people read. When this type of macular degeneration is in its more advanced stages, then there is a thinning of the light – sensitive layer of cells which is leading to atrophy or tissue death. When patients who suffer from macular degeneration have the atrophic form of dry macular degeneration, then they may have blind spots in the center of their vision. Thos patients who have advanced stages of this type of macular degeneration lose central vision.
- Wet form: This is a type of macular degeneration and it is characterized by the growth of abnormal blood vessels from the choroid underneath the macula. This is known as choroidal neovascularization. These abnormal blood vessels are leaking fluid and blood into the retina which is causing distortion of vision and it makes straight lines look wavy as well as loss of central vision and blind spots. These abnormal cells and their bleeding can cause a scar which is leading to a permanent loss of the central vision.
Macular degeneration causes
In the most cases, people who suffer from macular degeneration have the dry form of it and they can lose some form of central vision. But the dry form of the macular degeneration can lead to wet form. There are some studies in which are said that only about 10% of people who suffer from macular degeneration develop the wet form and they make up the majority of those who experience serious vision loss from this disease. Doctors are recommending to their patients who are suffering from macular degeneration to control their eyesight carefully and also they must see their eye doctor on a regular basis.
Risk factors: It is known fact that the age – related macular degeneration is more common in older adults. In the adults who are over age 60, the macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss. This disease can be hereditary which means that it can be passed from parents to children. If you have some family member that has or had the macular degeneration, then you can have increased risk of developing it. You need to talk with your eye doctor about the risk of developing macular degeneration. Here are the most common risk factors for macular degeneration:
- Having a light eye color
- Being female
- Being light skinned
- Have high cholesterol
- Have high blood pressure
- You are a smoker