Macular degeneration is a common eye disease that gets worse over time and causes central vision loss–central vision is what you see in front of you when you’re looking straight ahead. Because the disease happens as you get older, it is also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It’s the leading cause of severe, permanent vision loss in people over 60 years old and affects more than 10 million Americans–more than cataracts and glaucoma combined.
Macular degeneration happens when the small central portion of your retina, called the macula, wears down. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of your eye. Macular degeneration usually doesn’t cause total blindness because it doesn’t affect your peripheral vision (what you see on the side when you’re looking straight ahead), but might cause severe vision problems.
Visiting the Metro-Detroit macular degeneration specialists at Normandy Optical for regular checkups can help with early diagnosis. We provide Michigan patients with the best eye care to help them manage macular degeneration and other types of eye conditions. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!
Types of Macular Degeneration
There are two main types of macular degeneration: “dry” (atrophic) type and “wet” (exudative) type. Approximately 85-90 percent of cases are the dry form, and about 10-15% of cases are the wet form. While most people with macular degeneration have the dry form, it can lead to the wet form.
Dry - People with this may have yellow deposits, called drusen, in their macula. A few small drusen may not cause changes in your vision, but as more form and they get bigger, they might dim or distort your vision, especially when you read. As the condition gets worse, the light-sensitive cells in your macula get thinner and eventually die. You may have blind spots in the center of your vision and as it gets worse, you might lose central vision.
Wet - The blood vessels that grow underneath your macula leak blood and fluid into your retina, which distorts your vision so that straight lines look wavy. You may also have blind spots and loss of central vision. These blood vessels and their bleeding eventually form a scar, leading to permanent loss of central vision.
Macular Degeneration Symptoms
Macular degeneration is a progressive disease, which means it will get worse over time. Early on, you might not have noticeable signs of macular degeneration. It might not be diagnosed until it gets worse or affects both eyes.
Symptoms of dry macular degeneration include:
Reduced central vision
Distortion of straight lines in your field of vision
The need for brighter lighting
Difficulty adapting to low lights
Trouble recognizing faces
Some symptoms of wet macular degeneration resemble those of dry macular degeneration, such as reduced central vision and visual distortions.
Wet macular degeneration symptoms may also include:
Blurry spot in your field of vision
Dark spot in the center of your vision due to blood vessels bleeding or leaking fluid
Rapidly worsening symptoms (wet macular degeneration progresses more quickly than dry macular degeneration)
If you are experiencing these symptoms and believe you may have AMD, contact the Metro-Detroit eye doctors at Normandy Optical to schedule an appointment. The sooner, the better!
There are three stages of AMD:
Early AMD - Most people do not experience vision loss at this stage, which is why regular eye exams are important for early diagnosis. Early AMD is diagnosed by the presence of medium-sized drusen.
Intermediate AMD - At this stage, there may be some vision loss, but there still may not be noticeable symptoms. A comprehensive eye exam with specific tests will look for larger drusen and/or pigment changes in the retina.
Late AMD - At this stage, vision loss has become noticeable.
What Causes Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina (the macula). The macula is responsible for focusing central vision in the eye and controls our ability to read, drive a car, recognize faces or colors, and see objects in fine detail.
Risk factors for AMD include:
Age - This is the biggest risk factor and it increases as you get older; AMD is most likely to occur in those 60+
Genetics - AMD may have something to do with genes, so people with a family history of AMD are at a higher risk
Smoking - Smoking doubles the risk of AMD
Other risk factors include having high blood pressure or high cholesterol, obesity, eating lots of saturated fat, being light-skinned, being female, and having a light eye color.
Macular Degeneration Treatment
There is no cure for macular degeneration; however, macular degeneration treatment may slow the disease down or keep you from losing too much of your vision.
Wet and dry AMD treatment options might include:
Anti-angiogenesis drugs - Certain medications block the creation of blood vessels and leaking from the vessels in your eye that cause wet macular degeneration. This may help get back vision that was lost but may be needed multiple times.
Laser therapy - High-energy laser light can destroy abnormal blood vessels growing in your eye.
Photodynamic laser therapy - Your doctor injects a light-sensitive drug into your bloodstream and it is absorbed by the abnormal blood vessels. Your doctor then shines a laser into your eye to trigger the medication to damage those blood vessels.
Surgery - Your doctor may recommend surgery to implant a telescopic lens in your eye to replace the natural lens. This magnifies your field of vision.
Macular Degeneration Prevention
A large study found that some people with dry AMD could slow the disease by taking supplements of vitamins C and E, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc, and copper. Your doctor can help determine if these supplements may help you.
Contact Our Metro-Detroit Macular Degeneration Specialists to Schedule an Appointment
If you are experiencing any of the AMD symptoms listed above or hope to catch the eye disease early with routine examinations, schedule a consultation with the Metro-Detroit eye doctors at Normandy Optical as soon as possible. We can provide a thorough evaluation and diagnosis. If you have already been diagnosed with macular degeneration, we can help you manage your condition and ensure you get the best care. We have multiple locations around Michigan to conveniently serve you. Contact us today!