Macular degeneration, often referred to as Age-related Macular Degeneration, or AMD, is the leading cause of blindness in Americans who are 65 and older. The disease can even affect patients as young as 40. AMD is typically caused by damage or deterioration of the central area of the retina. Symptoms often include a wavy appearance to straight objects, as well as blurry vision and small blind spots in the central visual field. Early stages of macular degeneration can have very subtle symptoms, such as slight blurring or distortion. It’s very important to have regular eye exams, and to immediately seek an eye evaluation if you notice something wrong with your vision. Early treatment for macular degeneration is vital in order to limit the damage this condition can cause.
A number of factors can lead to macular degeneration, including the natural process of aging, genetics, smoking, and exposure to ultraviolet rays. There are two types of macular degeneration: dry and wet. Dry macular degeneration is the most common form of AMD. It has a slow progression, meaning that the change in vision may not be noticeable right away. Patients with dry macular degeneration can often be helped with vision aids, vitamins, and supplements to prevent further damage.
Wet macular degeneration typically develops at a more rapid rate, so patients will generally have very noticeable changes in vision. Wet macular degeneration is characterized by abnormal blood vessels in the back of the eye that cause blood or fluid to leak, ultimately leading to permanent tissue damage. This damage cannot be reversed, but surgical intervention or medication can help to stop the bleeding and prevent any further damage to your eyesight or to the retina.
Preventing the Worst Effects of Macular Degeneration
Although there is no cure for macular degeneration, there are some steps you can take to prevent it, or to at least slow its progression. Eating a healthy diet that includes zinc, folic acid, selenium, and vitamins A, C, and E can be helpful. There are lines of supplemental vitamins especially created for macular degeneration prevention, which you can learn about in this downloadable document: Macular Degeneration and AREDS. These can also be found in antioxidant and beta-carotene rich foods such as leafy green vegetables, fish, peaches, plums, berries, melons, tomatoes, carrots, and citrus fruits. It is also important to wear protective eyewear outdoors to prevent UV exposure. People who smoke or are obese are also at risk, so it is important to exercise and maintain an overall healthy lifestyle, as well.
It is also crucial to have regular eye exams and to talk with an experienced eye doctor about any symptoms you may be experiencing. Early diagnosis and treatment for macular degeneration can go a long way toward limiting vision impairment.
Symptoms of AMD
You can test yourself for the symptoms of Macular Degeneration at home by downloading this grid: Amsler grid printable. If you are beginning to notice that straight lines appear to be wavy, or your central vision is becoming blurry, please schedule an appointment with us as soon as possible. Our highly trained ophthalmologists will be able to conduct a comprehensive exam and help to determine what action needs to be taken in order to protect your vision.
For more information on macular degeneration, please contact us today. We will be happy to answer your questions, or set up an eye evaluation with one of our experienced vision care specialists.