Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration is a common problem among older adults. The macula is the part of your retina that handles centralized vision. A healthy macula is essential for tasks like reading, driving, and recognizing faces. When the macular degenerates, it can significantly impair your vision.
What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration ?
Dry oracular degeneration is the most common type of age-related macular degeneration. It is caused by fatty particles that accumulate under your retina. The buildup causes your macular cells to dry out and thin. The condition develops gradually and causes minor vision loss over time.
Patients with dry macular degeneration may develop a more severe condition called wet macular degeneration. If left untreated, wet macular degeneration can result in severe vision loss. The condition is caused by abnormal blood vessels growing underneath your retina. The blood vessels leak fluid that can damage your macular cells.
Tell your ophthalmologist if you notice any changes in your vision. By diagnosing the condition early, you may be able to preserve your central vision.
What Causes Age-Related Macular Degeneration ?
Macular degeneration is part of the normal aging process. Your risk for developing macular degeneration increases as you age. Additional risk factors include :
- High blood pressure.
- High cholesterol.
- Family history
What are The Symptoms of Age-Related Macular Degeneration ?
During the early stages of macular degeneration, you may not notice any symptoms. It’s important to schedule regular screenings to ensure that your eyes are healthy.
Dry macular degeneration can affect one eye or both of your eyes. If only one eye is affected, it may be more difficult to identify symptoms. The symptoms of dry macular degeneration include :
- Blurry vision up close and/or far away.
- Inability to adapt to different light levels.
- Colors appear less bright or faded.
- Trouble recognizing faces.
- Shadows and blind spots in your central vision.
The symptoms of wet macular degeneration appear suddenly and rapidly get worse. Common symptoms of wet macular degeneration include :
- Distorted or crooked vision.
- Colors appear to be less vivid.
- Grey spots and blind spots in your central vision.
- Loss of central vision.
How is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Diagnosed ?
Your ophthalmologist can conduct an eye exam to determine if you have age-related macular degeneration. During the exam, your doctor will inspect your eye structures and look for fluids and blood.
Your central vision will be tested for impairment. You may also receive a fluorescein angiogram. During this procedure, your ophthalmologist injects a colored dye into your arm. When the dye travels to you eye, it can help your doctor identify leaking blood vessels.
How is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treated ?
Currently, there is no treatment for dry macular degeneration. However, there are treatments for wet macular degeneration. Early treatment can slow the progression of the disease.
Your doctor may recommend a medication that can slow the growth of new blood vessels underneath your retina. Every 4 weeks, your ophthalmologist can inject the medication directly in your eye. As the blood vessels shrink, you may recover some of your vision.
Photodynamic therapy is another treatment for wet macular degeneration. Your doctor injects an intravenous drug and uses a specialized laser to activate the medication in your eye. The treatment closes the blood vessels underneath your retina and prevents them from leaking.
Laser photocoagulation seals leaking blood vessels in your eye. This treatment is only used in the most severe cases. It leaves a permanent blind spot, but preserves the rest of your vision.
If you have age-related macular degeneration, schedule regular screenings with your ophthalmologist. Your doctor can help you choose the best treatment plan based on the type and severity of your condition.