What is Macular Degeneration?
According to the American Macular Degeneration Association, macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss, affecting more than 10 million Americans – more than cataracts and glaucoma combined. The retina’s central area, known as the macula is tasked with the focusing, central vision in the eye. It controls our ability to read, drive, and recognize colors and faces along with the ability to see objects in fine detail. Macular degeneration causes loss in the center of your field of vision.The retina is the light-sensitive membrane attached to the inner surface of the eye. Light enters the eye and falls on the retina allowing us to see images, these are transmitted along the optic nerve to the brain where they are processed so we can see. The macula is a small area in the middle of the retina with the greatest amount of light sensitive cells and is used for fine-detailed central vision. Macular degeneration is a painless disorder that can affect either eye, causing progressive loss of central and detailed vision.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the most common form, although some forms affect younger people. There are two main types of AMD, referred to as ‘wet’ and ‘dry’. This is not a description of how the eye feels, but of whether leaking blood vessels are involved. Dry AMD accounts for 90% of cases, with 10% being Wet AMD. Dry AMD can become Wet AMD.
What Are the Symptoms of Macular Degeneration?
Symptoms of macular degeneration are commonly found in the central vision of your eye. These symptoms can be blurriness, dark areas or distorted vision. Macular degeneration can cause permanent loss of your central vision as well. Your peripheral vision stays intact, but your central vision is disabled.
Wet AMD can cause a sudden onset of symptoms over days, resulting from a buildup of fluid under the retina. Dry AMD progresses slowly over a number of years and the symptoms will onset gradually and includes blurred or absent central vision.
Risk Factors of Macular Degeneration
The largest risk factor for macular degeneration is your age. Risks for developing the disease increase as you age. The disease is most likely to occur in those 55 and older.
Other risk factors include:
- A family history of the disease.
- Race – Caucasians are more likely to develop the disease than African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos.
- Smoking – Smoking doubles the risk of AMD.
While there is no cure for macular degeneration at this time, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk and/or slow the progression of the disease such as: making changes to your diet, exercising regularly, avoiding smoking, and protecting your eyes from ultraviolet light. Your Optometrist will conduct tests if you have signs of AMD; this may include eye drops to dilate the pupil giving a better view of internal structures. We recommend that you have an eye test every two years, unless your Optometrist advises otherwise.
Call for a Consultation
Don’t postpone treatment of your macular degeneration symptoms. We are here to help you with your symptoms. Even though there is no current cure for this disease, we can help you to establish lifestyle habits to slow the progression and offer ways to cope with your current symptoms. Located at two convenient Denver locations–King Soopers Shopping Center off of South Monaco Parkway in Denver and at the Brentwood Shopping Center on Federal Boulevard–Optical Masters can offer you top-rate eye care services and help you with your eye health goals.