What is Macular Degeneration?
The macula is a small area in the center of the retina at the back of the eye that allows you to see fine details clearly and perform activities such as reading and driving. The retina is like the film or CCD sensor in a camera. Macular degeneration – both wet macular degeneration or dry macular degeneration – is a deterioration or breakdown of the macular area. Macular degeneration symptoms include blurry vision, dark areas or distortion, particularly within your central vision.
Macular degeneration symptoms show up in near and far sight and can make activities like threading a needle or reading either difficult or impossible. Although both dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration reduce vision in the central part of the retina, they usually do not affect the eye’s peripheral, or side, vision. For example, a common macular degeneration symptom would be seeing the outline of a clock but not being able to tell what time it is.
Wet macular degeneration and dry macular degeneration are the leading cause of severe vision loss in the elderly Caucasian population of the United States. A macular degeneration test by your eye doctor can determine if you’ve been affected by the eye disease, as well as what macular degeneration treatment is best for you.
What Causes Macular Degeneration Symptoms?
Many older people develop macular degeneration symptoms as part of the body’s natural aging process. There are different kinds of macular degeneration – including wet macular degeneration and dry macular degeneration – but the most common is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Exactly why it develops is not known, and no macular degeneration treatment has been uniformly effective.
The greatest risk factor in developing macular degeneration symptoms is age. People over the age of 60 are at greater risk than other age groups, and the risk of getting age-related macular degeneration increases with age. Women, Caucasians, lightly-pigmented people (blond hair, fair skin, blue-eyes) and those who have a family history of the eye disease also are more likely to develop macular degeneration symptoms. Other risk factors include diet, heart disease, sun exposure and smoking. Smoking is the major preventable risk factor for the development of age-related macular degeneration. However, the exact cause of the eye disease still poorly understood. Your eye doctor can determine if you’re experiencing symptoms of macular degeneration with a simple macular degeneration test, which will allow your doctor to create the best macular degeneration treatment program for your eyes.
What Are Wet Macular Degeneration and Dry Macular Degeneration?
The two most common types of age-related macular degeneration are “dry” (atrophic) and “wet” (exudative).
Dry macular degeneration (atrophic): Most people have the “dry” form of AMD. Dry macular degeneration is caused by aging and the thinning of the tissues of the macula. This form causes a gradual decline in your central vision and worsening distortion. There is no pain with this type of macular degeneration.
Wet macular degeneration (exudative). The “wet” form of macular degeneration accounts for about 10 percent of all AMD cases. Wet macular degeneration results when abnormal blood vessels form underneath the retina at the back of the eye. These new blood vessels leak fluid or blood, causing blurry vision. Vision loss may be rapid and severe. Most wet macular degeneration begins as dry macular degeneration.
Macular degeneration treatment is available through your eye doctor, with a macular degeneration test as the first step.