Aging is an undeniable part of life. It takes its toll on the body in many ways, from wrinkles to gray hair to diminished physical strength. In addition to all of these things, time can negatively affect the performance of the eyes. Most of us aren’t surprised by this revelation. In fact, we often come to expect certain common vision changes such as presbyopia, which causes blurred vision when reading or focusing at around age 40. However, other age-related conditions are more serious and can have a greater impact on your life. This includes a disease called macular degeneration.
What is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration, or age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is a leading cause of vision loss for those roughly 60 years or older. It involves the deterioration of central vision, which is due to damage of the macula (the central part of the retina). While AMD remains incurable, visiting an eye doctor for treatment is the best way to slow its progression and help you make the most of your vision.
Types of Macular Degeneration
There are 2 main forms of this age-related eye disease. The first and most common type is referred to as “dry” macular degeneration. In these cases, the yellow protein called drusen forms in or around the macula. Eventually the protein accumulates and causes the macula to thin, leading to central vision loss. The loss of vision is usually a gradual process.
The second, less common form is “wet” macular degeneration. Abnormal blood vessels can grow beneath the retina and leak fluids which distort central vision. With this form of the disease, the progression of vision loss is faster and more severe.
Symptoms & Risk Factors
In a lot of cases, AMD comes on slowly and does not produce any initial symptoms. Due to the fact that it’s also painless, this doesn’t necessarily give you a warning that something is wrong. However, this does shine light on how important routine eye exams can be for detecting problems as soon as possible.
When symptoms do begin to occur, the most prevalent sign is blurry vision. Additional symptoms can include:
-Shadowed central vision
-Impaired depth perception
-Difficulty seeing in low light
-Trouble seeing details and/or colors
-Straight lines appear wavy
What causes AMD? Well, the exact cause is still unknown. However, advanced age is the biggest risk factor. Other links have been made to genetics and family history, blue eye color, gender (women are more at risk than men), and race (Caucasians are more likely to develop it than other races). Despite this, there are some risk factors that can be controlled. These include:
-High blood pressure
As previously stated, AMD cannot be cured at this time. Certain methods and steps can usually be taken to decrease the rate that it progresses or lower your risk of developing it in the first place. Examples of these actions include avoiding smoking, protecting your eyes from the sun, and maintaining a healthy diet that doesn’t consist of processed foods or artificial fats. Your eye doctor may also recommend certain vitamins, nutritional supplements, or FDA-approved medications or laser treatments, depending on the form and stage of AMD.
There are also a range of low vision devices that can help AMD sufferers cope with the vision loss. Things like computer aids, magnifiers, and large print reading materials can possibly prevent AMD from completely stopping you from participating in the things that you love.
Experienced Vision Care
If you are having an issue with your eyes, or would like to set up a vision screening, please contact us at Advanced Eye Medical Group in Mission Viejo today. Our skilled team of eye doctors offer services that extend from eye exams to iLASIK, and we feel that it’s a true privilege to help patients with their vision needs.