Macular degeneration is a major cause of visual loss in the United States and the most common cause of legal blindness for patients over 55 years old. Of the estimated 15 million people in the country who have macular degeneration, most won’t know they have it until they start to lose their vision. More people have macular degeneration than glaucoma and cataracts together. Because people are living longer and making up a bigger part of the population, macular degeneration is becoming a bigger problem. Since macular degeneration is so common, it is important that you know more about this condition.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition that leads to the gradual loss of central vision. It is a leading cause of vision loss among adults 50 years of age and older. It damages the macula, the area near the center of the retina that is needed for sharp vision. This part of the eye allows you to see details clearly and is essential for tasks such as reading, driving, and even recognizing faces. Read More ❯
As the symptoms of macular degeneration set in, the center of the vision becomes blurry, distorted and darkened. Engaging in some daily activities can become a hassle, as well as a danger. This loss of vision usually occurs with little to no pain and can be unnoticeable at the start of the degradation process.
There are two types of macular degeneration: “dry” and “wet”. Even though neither one causes total blindness, both can cause severe loss of central vision.
“Dry” or atrophic AMD can cause the central vision to get worse over a period of time. In addition to blurred vision, blind spots can develop. “Dry” macular degeneration is characterized by excessive accumulation of yellow-colored deposits, also known as drusen, around the macula.
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The macula is the central part of the retina responsible for sharp central vision, which is needed to drive or to read. As the drusen get bigger, the retina above them starts to die and the vision starts to dim and blur. Vision might be distorted, but total blindness does not occur. If you have macular degeneration, you will not go totally blind. This process can develop slowly and continue over the course of many years. “Dry” macular degeneration is usually not as severe as “wet” macular degeneration.
“Wet” or exudative AMD usually marks the more advanced stage of macular degeneration. It is the development of new, abnormal blood vessels in the region, which causes blood or other fluids to leak into the macula, thus blocking the central vision. Nearly 10 percent of the cases of macular degeneration are wet; the remaining 90 percent are dry. The symptoms of “wet” macular degeneration are usually more aggressive and the loss of central vision can be very rapid.
How do you know if macular degeneration could be affecting your life?
The symptoms of macular degeneration may be different for different people. It often develops slowly and painlessly, and can be difficult to notice in its early stages. As the disease progresses, central vision becomes shadowy, blurred or fuzzy. Images and straight lines may look slightly distorted as the retina becomes irregular. Read More ❯
To better understand how macular degeneration can affect vision, think about how an old film camera works.
Light from an object goes through the camera lens and falls on the film. The film is developed and printed and you get a picture.
In the eye, light travels through the lens in the eye and falls on the retina. The retina is like the film in a camera. The image is recorded and processed in the brain.
Now take the film out of the camera and crinkle it up and put it back into the camera. Take a picture on the crinkled film. How will the picture turn out? It will be distorted and fuzzy.
When light falls on a distorted crinkled retina, the same thing happens. What you see can be distorted or fuzzy.
At the latest stage of AMD, there is a noticeable loss of vision. The central vision becomes dark and obstructed by black spots.
The exact cause of macular degeneration is unknown, but there are many risk factors that may affect the likelihood of developing macular degeneration. Read More ❯
Age, race, and sex are major risk factors. Macular degeneration is most common among female Caucasians over the age of 50. If you have a family history or relatives who have macular degeneration, then you could be at a greater risk of getting it also.
Excessive exposure to sunlight can speed up the onset of macular degeneration in otherwise healthy individuals. If you have lighter colored eyes, such as green or blue, you are more likely to develop it. Those with darker eyes have additional protection because of extra pigment in the eye. Wearing the right sunglasses is an important step to protect your eyes and reduce the risk of macular degeneration.
Other factors that influence the development of macular degeneration include smoking and exercise. Up to 25 percent of cases of people with macular degeneration involve smokers, and if you live with or regularly spend a lot of time with a smoker, you have a higher chance of developing macular degeneration. Being overweight or obese is also a risk factor for macular degeneration. High blood pressure may be associated with this condition.
While there is no known cure to stop macular degeneration, there are both preventative measures you may take, as well as treatments to slow its progression.
Here are some of the things you need to do to prevent or to slow down the progression of macular degeneration.
1. Stopping smoking. Read More ❯
2. Eating vegetables, especially leafy green ones like spinach and kale, as well as carrots, can aid in improving and preserving eyesight.
3. Maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle can help prevent the onset of macular degeneration. Try to stay at a healthy weight and exercise on a regular basis. This helps not only your eyes but your general health as well. Watch your blood pressure and keep it under control. Also, keep an eye on your cholesterol.
4. Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids, such as salmon and avocados, can also help prevent and treat the progression of macular degeneration. Fish oil supplements can also be helpful. Some fish oil supplements are much higher quality and a have a higher concentration of omega 3 than others. In addition, no one likes the fishy taste of poor quality supplements.
5. Fruits and certain types of nuts are another good food for macular degeneration prevention.
6. Sugary foods or foods loaded with refined carbohydrates are bad for your body and bad for your eyes. Avoid them.
7. Take a multivitamin supplement unless your doctor advises against it. Centrum Silver is an example.
8. Take an eye vitamin with the right formula of lutein and zeaxanthin.
9. Be sure to wear a good pair of quality sunglasses to block harmful UV-rays and blue light which may cause eye damage.
10. It is very important to have yearly eye checkups once you are 45 years of age. Your eye doctor can detect changes in the internal structure of your eye before you notice signs of the disease.
Losing vision to macular degeneration can be a very distressing situation that can change your life and the life of your loved ones. Even though some vision is left, the ability to cope with and accept the condition can prove difficult. Driving may become impossible and dangerous. You may no longer be able to make out the faces of your loved ones, or read a book or newspaper without some struggle. Fortunately, there are various treatment options for macular degeneration. Read More ❯
Even though there is no cure for macular degeneration, there are some treatments for macular degeneration that can delay the progression of the disease and sometimes even improve vision.Treatments for macular degeneration depends on its type: “wet” or “dry”. While no medical treatment or surgery can fix “dry” macular degeneration, clinical trials suggest that certain vitamins and antioxidants, like zeaxanthin and lutein, can help delay the progression of “dry” macular degeneration.Supplements are prescribed by the doctor after a thorough examination of your condition and medical history. Also, some trials suggest that consumption of green leafy vegetables and fish slows down the degeneration process.
One of the newest treatments for “wet” macular degeneration are the anti-angiogenic drugs (Macugen, Avastin, and Lucentis). These drugs have a molecule that attacks a protein that causes abnormal, leaky blood vessel growth. Clinical trials have shown that many patients have slower rates of vision loss after this treatment. This treatment has also restored vision for some patients.
Laser surgery to destroy the abnormal blood vessels is also an effective way of treating “wet” macular degeneration.
A doctor may perform tests to detect the severity or existence of macular degeneration. Many eye doctors use an Amsler grid to help detect the presence of the condition before the symptoms make themselves known. An Amsler grid looks somewhat like a piece of graph paper with a single dot located at the center coordinate. Where most people would see the grid exactly as it is, if you have macular degeneration, you may see the crisscrossed lines as warped instead of straight, with the small dot as a larger blur. Read More ❯
You could also see areas of the grid that are missing. This is just an example of what you might see, even if you did not know you had macular degeneration.
Additionally, the visual acuity test provides an idea of how well you can see at a distance. Since macular degeneration can affect your ability to see distant objects, this form of test proves helpful.
Dilated eye exams are performed in order to provide the doctor with an easier method of seeing how the back of the eye looks, including the retina and optic nerve. This is done by putting in eye drops that cause the pupils to become larger.
A fluorescein angiogram allows your doctor to check for any leakage in the eye’s blood vessels. This is done by injecting a vein in your arm with some dye, then tracking the dye’s progress into the eye, thus allowing the doctor to tell whether or not leakage is occurring. This would signal the “wet” type.
Finally, optical coherence tomography (OCT) uses light waves in the same way that an ultrasound uses sound waves to develop an image of the tissues in the eye.
Consuming certain types of supplemental vitamins has proved useful in helping to maintain good eyesight. Some studies show evidence that supplements of lutein and zeaxanthin improve the quality and strength of the pigments within the macula, thus aiding in its protection. For late stages of macular degeneration, some experts also recommend the following supplements to help the body ensure proper maintenance of eyesight and eye health. They include: Read More ❯
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Beta carotene.
These supplements provide nourishment and mineralization that offer protective benefits. You will also want to increase your amount of daily exercise, as this improves blood flow. Improved blood flow decreases the chances of high blood pressure and helps your eyes receive more nutrients and oxygen. Finally, quit smoking, as it may be a contributing factor to the degradation of the macula.
Lastly, macular degeneration support and discussion groups exist to help you meet others struggling with the same condition. Counselors are an option to help with acceptance. Remember, it is highly unlikely that extreme damage can be reversed or improved. However, no one is alone in this struggle, and everyone can find a comfortable, supportive place in which they may speak about it.
While the treatment of macular degeneration can slow down the damage to a great extent, it cannot restore the vision that has been already lost. You might still experiences difficulty performing simple tasks such as reading, identifying colors and people. However, there are ways to improve the quality of life. There are low vision aids available if you are struggling with the loss of central vision.
In macular degeneration, part of the central retina is damaged resulting in loss of central vision.
The key to low vision devices is magnification. Low vision aids and devices magnify the image in the eye so that is will extend on nearby good areas of the retina.There are many types of magnification devices that can help you see better. Read More ❯
However, low vision aids are task specific. What works for driving and watching television will not work for reading.The role of the doctor is first to find out what tasks are most important to you. For example, is it most important to you to drive, to watch television, to see faces, to read, or to use the computer? The second step is to find out how much usable vision there is. The third step is to design a low vision device that gives the right amount of magnification of the usable vision to be able to do the task at hand.
Microscopic low vision magnifiers help make print bigger so you can read it. The degree of magnification depends on the size of the object as well as how much vision you have left. These magnifiers combine two lenses, a magnifying lens and your prescription eyeglasses. The microscopic low vision magnifiers can be used with one eye only. They can work wonders for patients who have been told nothing more can be done.
Telescopic low vision devices are helpful for enhancing the distant vision, near vision or custom range of vision. These can be used for one eye or both eyes, depending on your condition. These can be helpful while playing cards, reading, watching television, walking, etc. They also help in identifying the faces of people with better ease.
There are a range of extremely sophisticated low vision devices that can enhance you vision to a significant extent, by transferring the image to the unaffected, healthy part of the macula. They are known as the E-Scoop Low Vision Glasses. It can be said that these are the simplified version of the telescopic low vision devices. We have patients who have been able to pass the DMV vision test and are driving with their telescope glasses when they were not able to pass with their regular glasses.
Finally, there is a low vision device known as the Prismatic Low Vision Readers. These special readers will help you if you have approximately equal residual vision in both eyes and need more magnification that what is commonly available. They can have one lens or two lenses depending on patient’s condition. They are available in a much stronger prescription than you can buy at the store.
Many patients who would be able to read with these custom magnified readers have been told by their eye doctors that nothing more could be done because this strength of reader is not available through most optical labs and most eye doctors do not have a way to order them.
A thorough low vision examination and a demonstration of the different low vision devices is the key to finding a solution for vision struggles. After measurements are taken, we let you actually try the various low vision aids and devices to make sure they are working for you. You must see the results and improvement before you take anything home.
If you, a family member or friend, is struggling with poor vision due to macular degeneration, please call Dr. Ashcraft at (800) 345-9719 to schedule a free telephone consultation.