Understanding Macular Degeneration

Posted on: 20 June 2017

Macular degeneration affects your central vision and occurs when the macula (which is located in the centre of the retina) deteriorates. Those with the condition have no problem with their peripheral vision, but they experience varying degrees of vision loss when looking straight ahead. It's a common eye disorder that most often affects the elderly population, and it's categorised as either wet or dry. Wet macular degeneration is less common than dry macular degeneration, and it causes sufferers to see a dark spot when looking ahead due to blood vessels bleeding under the retina. Dry macular degeneration causes vision loss as a result of drusen, which are small yellow deposits, damaging the cells of the retina. Here's what you need to know about macular degeneration:

Causes And Symptoms

There's not always a clear reason why some people develop macular degeneration, but it's thought cell damage around the retina can occur due to changes in the protein within your eyes, as a result of aging. Additionally, lifestyle factors, such as smoking drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and being overweight, are thought to contribute to the development of the condition.

Symptoms of macular degeneration tend to worsen as the condition progresses, so you may not notice changes to your vision when the condition first develops. Dry macular degeneration can cause blurred vision, and you may notice you need brighter lighting to carry out certain activities, such as reading or knitting, comfortably. As the condition progresses, you may struggle to recognise faces unless you're very close to a person. Wet macular degeneration can cause the same symptoms as dry macular degeneration, but you may also experience hazy vision, which can cause lines to appear distorted. Additionally, symptoms progress much faster when you have wet macular degeneration.

Diagnosis And Treatment

Signs of macular degeneration can be identified during a routine eye test using an ophthalmoscope. This is a small magnifying device that allows the optometrist to see the retina at the back of the eye and check for yellow deposits, fluid or blood vessel damage. If macular degeneration is suspected, you may be referred to an ophthalmologist to have your retinas examined more closely. They will carry out a fluorescein angiography, which is a diagnostic procedure that uses dye to highlight the blood vessels around the retinas. Photographs of damaged areas will be taken, and this will enable your doctor to determine the extent of damage that has occurred.

The treatment approach for macular degeneration is dependent on the type you have. If you have dry macular degeneration, you can have a telescopic lens surgically implanted on your eye, and this can improve your sight by magnifying your field of vision. Wet macular degeneration can be prevented from progressing further using topical drugs that prevent new blood vessels growing around the retina, and the existing leaking blood vessels will be closed using a laser.

Contact an optometrist near you for more information and assistance.