Macular degeneration is a disease that develops in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. As macular degeneration progresses, it robs us of the clear central vision we need for everyday activities.
There is currently no cure for macular degeneration. However, when the disease is caught early, the team at Vista Eye Specialists manages it with medical and surgical therapies that may delay or prevent vision loss.
What Is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is a breakdown of the macula, or central portion of the retina responsible for clear central vision and most of our color vision. A healthy, functioning macula is essential to our ability to read fine print, recognize faces and see sharp color tones. The macula contains a large amount of photoreceptor cells that create signals from light to send to the brain. At the edge of the retina are rod cells, which help maintain peripheral and color vision.
Macular degeneration is often referred to as “AMD” (age-related macular degeneration) because it is most common among older adults. Persons 55 and older are at greatest risk of developing the disease.
Other risk factors include a family history of the disease, poor diet, smoking and overexposure to sunlight.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of AMD?
As the cells of the macula gradually break down and die, central vision can become blurry or shadowy. Dark spots may appear in the central line of sight, and straight lines can appear wavy.
As AMD progresses, vision continues to deteriorate. The center of the visual field can become very distorted. Other signs and symptoms of AMD can include loss of contrast sensitivity, impaired depth perception and the need for brighter light to perform daily tasks.
Vision continues to deteriorate as the disease progresses. In the most advanced cases, macular degeneration can render a person legally blind.
Types of AMD
The early stage of AMD, called “dry AMD,” affects approximately 85 to 90 percent of people with the disease. With dry AMD, small yellow deposits called drusen form under the retina, causing it to thin, dry out and lose function. Vision loss can occur.
Dry AMD tends to advance more slowly than the other type of AMD, which is known as “wet AMD.” With wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and macula, leaking blood and other fluids; the leaking can collect and cause a bump in the macula. This causes central vision to deteriorate quickly.
Treatments for AMD
Treating dry AMD usually involves nutritional therapy to promote macular health. The National Eye Institute’s Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) and its follow-up, AREDS2, discovered that consuming certain nutrients — including lutein and zeaxanthin — can delay or prevent the progression of dry AMD to wet AMD.
Treatments for wet AMD include injecting medication into the eyes to inhibit the growth of new, abnormal blood vessels. Photodynamic therapy and laser surgery can also be used to seal off and destroy abnormal leaking blood vessels. These treatments generally don’t restore lost vision but they can help delay or prevent additional vision loss.
Learn More about AMD
If you are experiencing blurry or distorted central vision, you should be checked by an eye doctor for macular degeneration or other eye diseases. Contact Vista Eye Specialists to request an appointment with our team today.