Everything Adults Over 40 Should Know About Macular Degeneration
Losing your eyesight is one of the most common things that can happen as you grow older. Unfortunately, this problem can’t always be easily fixed with a pair of glasses. There are a number of conditions that can cause your sight to deteriorate. One of them is called macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that is commonly diagnosed in people over the age of 40. With AMD, your central vision is damaged and prevents you from seeing details far away or up close.
The severity of AMD will impact people’s eyesight differently, and it can continue to worsen as you age. This is the leading cause of vision loss for American adults and there is no cure, making it important for you to know the symptoms and how you can prevent it.
What Causes Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration impacts a person’s central vision. It prevents you from seeing details and generally prevents you from seeing clearly. This condition involves the deterioration of the macula, the part of the retina that controls your ability to see fine detail. This can make it hard for people to clearly read, drive, watch television or even recognize faces.
There are two types of AMD that differ in development.
Dry Macular Degeneration
This is the most common type of AMD that 85 to 90 percent of patients are diagnosed with. This occurs when you get older and the macula gets thinner. Protein cells called drusen grow, which causes you to slowly lose central vision.
Wet Macular Degeneration
This is the most severe form of AMD, but it’s less common. This involves new and abnormal blood cells growing under the retina, leaking fluids that scar the macula.
Peripheral vision is not impacted by all AMD, so you can usually still see from the side. Most people won’t discover they have this condition until their vision gets blurry, but there are other symptoms to look out for.
The Symptoms Of Macular Degeneration
Since macular degeneration is a condition that impacts the eyes, any change in your vision could be a symptom. Those in earlier stages of the condition may not experience any symptoms at all.
Macular degeneration could lead to a slow or fast-acting decrease in your central eyesight. It might start with a change in your vision quality, or you might start seeing straight lines appear distorted. You might see dark, blurry or white figures appearing in the center of your vision.
If you notice a change in your eyesight, especially your central vision, that could indicate macular degeneration. You should see an ophthalmologist as soon as you notice something is off. It’s best to see an eye doctor regularly so they can catch this condition early since not everyone will experience symptoms in early stages.
Stages And Risk Factors Of Macular Degeneration
The impact of macular degeneration on eyesight will differ from person to person. As time goes on, a patient with AMD could worsen and enter later stages of this condition. For others, the condition might remain less severe.
There are three main stages of macular degeneration.
1. Early AMD: The earliest stage where patients might not experience any symptoms.
2. Intermediate AMD: A patient might experience some vision loss, but nothing too severe.
3. Late AMD: Vision loss is noticeable and obvious to the patient.
There is no designated amount of time a person’s sight can change, but there are certain risk factors that can play a role in worsening someone’s condition. Many of them are related to lifestyle choices, which puts a lot of the patient’s risk factors in their control.
Here are some of the risk factors for macular degeneration:
- High blood pressure
- Lighter eye color
Regardless of risk factors, growing older and aging is something that puts any adult at risk of developing AMD.
Treatments For Macular Degeneration
Unfortunately, there is no cure for macular degeneration. But there are treatment options that could help slow down the condition and the deterioration of your eyesight.
A doctor might use drug therapy to regain vision loss caused by AMD. They do this by injecting medication into your eye to stop blood vessels from forming. This would block leaking from abnormal vessels which are caused by macular degeneration.
In another treatment used to help patients with AMD, doctors point high energy beams of light to destroy blood vessels from actively growing.
A third form of treatment is a combination of using both medication and laser therapy. It’s a two-step process called photodynamic laser therapy. Doctors first inject medication into your bloodstream for the blood vessels in your eyes to absorb. A laser is pointed into the eye to activate the drug and damage abnormal blood cells.
Living With Macular Degeneration
More than 5.44 million Americans are expected to have macular degeneration by 2050. That’s why it’s important to learn how to lower your chances of developing it and how to live with it.
If treatment does not help improve your eyesight, there are tools to help people living with macular degeneration. There are devices designed with special lenses or electronic systems to enlarge images of objects. There has also been research showing certain vitamins (C, E, zinc, copper, beta-carotene) can lower the risk of vision loss in certain stages of AMD.
It’s important to get regular check ups with your eye doctor so they can check for any signs of macular degeneration forming. This will allow you to be more proactive and lower your risk factor of losing your central vision.