Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration is a disease that causes vision loss. It destroys your central vision, which is needed to see things sharp and clearly. There are two kinds of macular degeneration:

  1. Dry macular degeneration: causes vision loss in your central vision. It is a deterioration of the macula (part of the eye that lets you see fine details).
  2. Wet macular degeneration: swelling caused by leaky blood vessels in back of the eye.

Of the two, dry macular degeneration is more common and vision loss is usually gradual. According to the Mayo Clinic, the wet form always begins as the dry form and it isn ‘t known what causes the change.

Having clear central vision is essential to read small print, thread a needle, drive and recognize faces clearly. Take a look at the picture to the right – this is what it looks like to lose that part of your vision. You are still able to see the numbers on the clock but not the hands in the middle pointing to the time. Generally, people with macular degeneration can still use their peripheral (or side) vision.

This disease progresses at different rates for everyone – some people hardly notice a chance in their vision while others experience vision loss very quickly.

Some symptoms of both forms include:

  • Decrease in the brightness of colors
  • Need brighter lights to see things up close
  • Increased blurring of printed words
  • Trouble recognizing faces
  • Loss of central vision

There are several factors that can increase your risk of getting macular degeneration:

  • Natural aging process (most common in people over 60)
  • Family history 
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

Routine eye exams can detect the disease before it causes vision loss and treatment can slow the progression of the disease if it’s caught early. However, there is no known way to restore vision once it is gone. If you have experienced any or all of these symptoms , call your eye doctor to set up an appointment. Tell the doctor that you have had these symptoms and would like to be tested for macular degeneration. The test the doctor will do what is called the Amsler grid test. Click here to learn more about this test and how to perform it at home.

If you are diagnosed with macular degeneration, it is important to remember there are things you can do to slow down the progression of the disease.

  • Start taking or increase vitamin intake
  • Eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables
  • Choose healthy unsaturated fats
  • Eat whole grains 
  • Add fish to your diet 
  • Telescopic lens implant

For more advanced wet macular degeneration, there are other treatments such as medication, laser therapy or photodynamic therapy to destroy leaky blood vessels and slow down vision loss.

There may come a time when you must adapt your lifestyle to your changing vision. The Mayo Clinic has some great recommendations for this.