What Is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is an eye disease characterized by damage to the macula, which is part of the retina. Macular degeneration is a common cause of vision loss, particularly among those aged 50 and older. While there is no cure for macular degeneration, the condition can often be controlled and treated so that further vision loss does not occur.
The eye doctors at Monterey County Eye Associates are happy to help individuals in Monterey, Salinas, and King City, CA, understand what macular degeneration is and how it affects vision. Here we provide an overview of the symptoms and causes of macular degeneration, as well as potential treatment options.
What Causes Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is an eye disease that primarily affects those who are 50 or older. There is no specific known cause for the condition, but there are factors that have been associated with this eye disease. Individuals are more likely to suffer from macular degeneration if they:
- Have a family history of macular degeneration
- Are overweight
- Suffer from high blood pressure
- Have high cholesterol levels
- Smoke cigarettes
Two Types of Macular Degeneration
There are two types of macular degeneration: dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration. Dry macular degeneration is much more common than wet macular degeneration. Wet macular degeneration is less prevalent, but is also a more serious condition.
Dry Macular Degeneration
In individuals with dry macular degeneration, the macula gradually gets thinner and small clumps of protein develop. The clumps of protein, called drusen, interfere with the central vision as they grow.
Wet Macular Degeneration
In individuals with wet macular degeneration, new abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina. The blood vessels can leak blood or fluids and create scarring on the macula. Wet macular degeneration can damage the central vision faster than dry macular degeneration.
Macular Degeneration Symptoms
Macular degeneration causes a loss of the central vision, but its effects are often gradual. Before the central vision is completely lost, individuals are likely to experience one or more symptoms that can indicate they are suffering from macular degeneration. Common macular degeneration symptoms include:
- Visual distortions
- Blurry vision
- Difficulty adapting to low light settings, or the need for brighter light when reading
- Decreased intensity of colors
- Difficulty making out faces
- A well-defined blurry spot in the central field of vision
Treating Macular Degeneration
Diagnosing and treating macular degeneration can preserve the vision and prevent irreversible damage. There is currently no known treatment for dry macular degeneration, but individuals can slow the progression of the disease by making healthy lifestyle changes and taking vitamins and other eye-healthy supplements.
Wet macular degeneration, which poses a greater threat to the central vision, can be treated. Anti-VEGF medication is the most common treatment for wet macular degeneration. These medications are injected directly into the eye with a thin needle. Surgery is another treatment option for more advanced stages of wet macular degeneration.
If you have experienced any changes in vision it is essential that you schedule an eye exam to rule out or diagnose eye diseases, such as macular degeneration. To schedule an appointment with the experienced eye doctors at Monterey County Eye Associates, contact us online, or call our practice at (831) 372-1500.