What is macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration is a retinal disease associated with aging and occurs when the macula breaks down or degrades, causing a progressive loss of vision. The macula is a small spot near the center of the retina in the back of the eye needed for sharp, central vision. As the macula breaks down with age, central vision becomes gradually more blurry, making everyday tasks such as facial recognition, reading, and driving more difficult. Macular degeneration is one of the most common causes of poor vision after age 60, and there are currently no available cures for this condition.
There are two types of macular degeneration: “dry” and “wet”. Nine out of 10 people who have macular degeneration have the dry form. The dry form occurs when light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly breakdown or thin over a long period of time. As the dry form gets worse, you may see a blurred spot in the center of your vision. Over time, as less of the macula functions, central vision is gradually lost in the affected eye. Straight lines appear crooked, and bright colors can appear washed out and dull.
Wet macular degeneration is less common, but more serious. One out of 10 people who have macular degeneration have this form. The wet form occurs when abnormal blood vessels form under the macula and leak blood and fluids, distorting your vision. Loss of central vision can occur quickly. It does not have stages like the “dry” form. Symptoms include a loss of ability to see objects clearly, a loss of color vision, distorted vision, or a dark, empty area appearing in the center of vision.
Prevention of Macular Degeneration
You can help slow the progression of macular degeneration by maintaining a healthy weight with regular exercise and eating plenty of fruit, vegetables, and fish. You should also avoid smoking and protect your eyes from ultraviolet rays by wearing sunglasses.
Research by the National Eye Institute has indicated that people at high risk for developing advanced macular degeneration can benefit from a combination of zinc and the antioxidant vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene. However, the supplements did not appear to benefit people with minimal macular degeneration or those who have no evidence of macular degeneration. Our doctors can determine if you are at risk for developing advanced macular degeneration and if supplements would be beneficial to you.
Treatment of Macular Degeneration
The only treatment for dry macular degeneration at this time consists of nutritional therapy and/or supplements as described above.
In the wet form of macular degeneration, leaking blood vessels grow abnormally beneath the retina, damaging the macula and distorting the vision. Until recently, the only available way to seal these leaking vessels and prevent further vision loss was with a laser. More recently, medications have been developed that help prevent the formation of new leaking blood vessels. These medications are injected directly into the eye to halt vision loss, and in some cases even improve vision. Injections must be administered as frequently as every month to obtain the best results.
These new treatments have dramatically changed the course of this disease over the last ten years, making macular degeneration more manageable than ever before. These breakthroughs inspire hope that someday we may see a cure for this disease. Jeffries Eye Associates is committed to offering the latest available treatments that we feel can benefit our patients for macular degeneration.