Macular degeneration is an incurable eye disease affecting more than 10 million Americans. It is the leading cause of vision loss in those aged 55 or older in the U.S. Macular degeneration is the degeneration of the macula, the part of the retina responsible for the sharp, central vision needed for driving and reading.
There are two forms of macular degeneration: wet and dry. The dry form is more common than the wet form, and the wet form leads to more serious vision loss. Know the signs and symptoms of this disease, as early detection is key to stopping further damage.
Dry Macular Degeneration
Dry macular degeneration is an early stage of the disease. It is a result of aging and thinning macular tissues, depositing of pigment in the macula or a combination of the two. This disease is diagnosed when yellow spot, called drusen, begin to form in the macula. Gradual central vision loss will occur with dry macular degeneration, although not quite as severe as wet macular degeneration. However, dry macular degeneration can slowly progress to late-stage geographic atrophy, causing severe vision loss.
No FDA-approved treatment currently exist for dry macular degeneration. Studies show that certain nutritional intervention may slow the process, and prevent it from progressing into something worse.
The best way to protect yourself from dry macular degeneration is through exercise, a healthy diet, and wearing sunglasses that protect your eyes from UV rays.
Wet Macular Degeneration
Around 10 percent of dry macular degeneration cases will progress into wet macular degeneration. With this form, new blood vessels will grow beneath the retina and leak fluid and blood. This causes permanent damage to retinal cells, causing them to die off and leave blind spots in central vision. There are FDA approved treatments for wet macular degeneration, which include drugs called Lucentis, Eylea, Macugen and Visudyne used with Photodynamic Therapy or PDT.
Signs & Symptoms
Most cases of macular degeneration will occur with gradual, painless vision loss. In rare cases, vision loss may be sudden. Some early signs of macular degeneration include:
- fuzzy, distorted vision
- shadowy areas in central vision
- crooked central vision
- decrease in the intensity of colors
- the need for brighter light when reading
- hallucinations of geometric shapes or people, in case of advanced macular degeneration
If you notice any of these symptoms, please make an appointment with us as soon as possible.