Causes and Symptoms of Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration (often referred to as Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)), is a relatively common eye disorder that usually affects the elderly. The condition occurs due to deterioration in the middle of the retina, an area called the macula. Macular degeneration leads to central vision loss. The central vision is the area that you see when you look straight ahead. The condition does not affect peripheral vision. 


Types of Macular Degeneration


Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in the country. There are two main types of AMD: dry and wet macular degeneration. The former is common, affecting between 85 to 90 percent of those who have the condition. It is caused by drusen (small yellow deposits) that form under the macula. On the other hand, wet macular degeneration is caused by abnormal blood vessels that develop under the macula and retina. Wet MD progresses much faster than dry MD.


Causes of Macular Degeneration


It is not clear why some people develop AMD while others don’t. There are, however, risk factors for developing the condition. People over the age of 55 are more likely to get AMD. The disease is hereditary, so those with a family history of the condition are more likely to get it. 


Other risk factors include being overweight, smoking, having high cholesterol, and having cardiovascular disease. According to research, AMD affects white people more than other races. 


Symptoms of Macular Degeneration


AMD is a progressive eye disease, which means that it gets worse over time. Most patients do not experience vision problems during the early stages of the condition. Any vision changes are less discernable when they simultaneously affect both eyes. Some common symptoms of AMD include diminishing central vision and straight lines in the field of vision appearing distorted. 


Other symptoms of AMD are blurriness, difficulty recognizing faces, difficulty seeing in low lighting, and retinal damage. Patients with wet AMD also experience blurry spots in the field of vision and hazy vision. They also experience dark spots due to leaking fluid or bleeding blood vessels, and they experience rapidly worsening symptoms.


Diagnosing Macular Degeneration


Proper diagnosis of the eye condition will help in finding solutions to slow down the disease. Several tests can be used to diagnose the condition. These include an Amsler grid test, fluorescein angiography, indocyanine green angiography, and optical coherence tomography. 


Treating Macular Degeneration


Currently, no cure for AMD exists, but doctors recommend solutions that can slow the advance of the disease. Patients with wet MD can benefit from working with a vision rehabilitation specialist. The specialists usually recommend ways to cope and adjust to living with vision loss. The doctor can inject medication directly into the eye to halt the growth of any new blood vessels. 


Photodynamic therapy is another treatment option available for AMD. The treatment involves using special lasers to close leaking blood vessels. Photocoagulation also involves using lasers to destroy abnormal blood vessels. This therapy aims to stop the bleeding and reduce damage to the macula. However, the therapy can lead to scarring, and the vessels can regrow. 


Having regular eye exams is advisable. The exams will allow the doctor to detect any vision changes early enough. 


For more information on macular degeneration, visit Eye Care Center at our offices in Fridley, Maplewood, or Maple Grove, Minnesota. You can also call (763) 308-8440, (651) 777-3555, or (763) 420-6981 today to schedule an appointment.

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