The macula the part of your retina (the lining on the back of the eye that senses light) that is responsible for central vision. It allows you to see fine details. Macular Degeneration is any deterioration of the macula. Symptoms of Macular Degeneration include blurred, distorted, or darkened areas in the center of your field of vision.
What Causes Macular Degeneration?
There are two main types of Macular Degeneration. Each has a different underlying cause.
The more common form of macular degeneration is Dry Macular Degeneration With Drusen (also called atrophic or non-neovascular macular degeneration). This type is caused by deterioration of the macular tissues. As people get older, their maculae often deteriorate naturally as part of the aging process. This condition, called age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is the most common macular problem.
An early sign of Dry Macular Degeneration is the appearance of tiny yellow or white deposits of fatty protein (drusen) forming under the macula. In later stages, the macula may get thinner, causing it to stop working properly. Vision loss can be so gradual with Dry Macular Degeneration that many people aren’t even aware they have the condition until they have a noticeable problem with their vision, or it’s detected during an eye examination.
Wet Macular Degeneration is less common, occurring in about 10 percent of cases. occurs when blood vessels begin to grow underneath the macula abnormally. These vessels may leak blood or fluid, causing central vision to become blurred or distorted. Wet macular degeneration can cause damage to the macula more rapidly than the dry form, so vision loss may be faster and more noticeable.
How Common Is Macular Degeneration?
A large study determined the risk of getting Macular Degeneration in your 50’s is about 2 percent, but nearly 30 percent after you reach 75. About 1 in 3 Caucasians have environmentally-induced genetic changes that put them at greater risk of developing Macular Degeneration.
Risk factors include:
- High Blood Pressure
- Abnormal cholesterol levels
How Is Macular Degeneration Treated?
There’s no scientifically proven treatment for Dry Macular Degeneration, but a large study has shown that a good antioxidant diet, vitamins and zinc may slow its progression.
Another study showed that people at high risk for developing Wet Macular Degeneration could lower the risk of it progressing to advanced stages by 25 percent or more by taking dietary supplements.
Vitamin supplements are not a cure, and the can’t restore vision that’s already been lost, but taken properly, they may be able to help some high-risk people maintain their vision.
Can Macular Degeneration Cause Other Problems?
When loss of vision does occur, it usually happens in one eye first. It may or may not affect the other eye later.
By itself, macular degeneration almost never causes total blindness, even if it’s left untreated. People with macular degeneration (even more advanced cases) usually continue to have useful peripheral vision. With treatment, and sometimes without, macular degeneration can have a minimal effect on vision.