Trouble focusing on objects, either near or far, is one of the first signs of macular degeneration.
Many factors may affect your vision, so you should see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
Diagnosing macular degeneration has become more common, as the life expectancy of the population increases.
This puts a strain on doctors, as well as the entire healthcare system, as costs for delivering quality care increases.
The term “macular degeneration” includes a variety of common eye conditions affecting the macula portion of the retina, reducing vision in the center of the eye. Your central vision allows you to see objects in front of you, as opposed to peripheral vision, which is seeing out of the corners of your eyes.
Macular degeneration occurs when a portion of the retina begins to deteriorate. Your retina is the inner layer of your eye, made up of nerves and rectors. These collect light signals, and transmit them to the brain for interpretation. The macula is responsible for the vision we use the most: the sight we need for reading, writing and recognizing objects.
There are two basic types of macular degeneration related to age.
Dry or Atrophic Macular Degeneration
Dry macular degeneration progresses slowly. It is characterized by an accumulation of drusen, small, round yelowish spots in the retina. You will experience some loss of vision, but this type rarely results in severe impairment or blindness.
As portions of the retinal pigment epithelium, the part responsible for protecting the retina and feeding the eye with omega 3 and glucose, gradually slow down, the overlying photoreceptor becomes damaged. This increases the size and number of drusen in the macular, and may affect your vision.
You can’t see the drusen. They can only be detected by examining the retina with a specialized lenses, an ophthalmoscope, or a slit-lamp biomicroscope. The spots usually develop in your late thirties, but are much more common after the age of seventy.
The spots are considered signs of macular degeneration, however they are not the main cause of impaired vision. Many people see quite well, and do not experience any symptoms of the condition. It is in its advanced stages, known as “geographic atrophy”, when large areas of cells die and vision loss occurs. The dry form is much more common than the wet type.
Exudative or Neovascular
It is unclear why, but a small portion of people with macular degenerationdevelop the more serious form known as the wet form. If your drusen is soft, without distinct borders, the drusen runs together. Also, if you have focal pigmentation, you are at a greater risk of developing the wet form of the disease.
It occurs when abnormal blood vessels are created, and begin to grow underneath the center of the retina. These new blood vessels often leak, bleed and scar the retina, blurring or destroying your central vision. This usually affects one eye first, and then may develop in the other eye later.
Unlike the dry type, with wet macular degeneration vision loss can occur quite quickly.
Signs of macular degeneration may include:
1. Decreased or blurred central vision.
2. Blind spots.
3. Distorted vision – objects appear differently in shape or color in each eye.
4. Objects appear smaller with one eye than the other.
Macular Degeneration Treatments
Photodynamic therapy is often used to treat some forms of wet macular degeneration. The treatment combines laser with a light-sensitive drug that destroys the leaking blood vessels.
The procedure generally takes less than half an hour. After treatment, you have to be very careful for about a week not to expose your eyes to bright lights, or direct sunlight, until the light-sensitive drug leaves your system. Several sessions are typically required in order to keep the neovascular growth under control.
Patients normally need three or four treatments in the first year, followed by another two treatments during the second year. Your ophthalmologist will use OCT imaging or angiograms to determine if you need additionaltreatments.
Before treatment, your ophthalmologist will explain the risks, limitations, benefits and possible alternatives.
If you experience any signs of macular degeneration, you should see your doctor right away.
Signs and Symptoms of Macular Degeneration from the Mayo Clinic