Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is the number cause of vision loss, affecting more than 10 million Americans (that's more than glaucoma and cataracts combined!). You may have heard of macular degeneration, or even the wet vs. dry conditions of this disease, as well as age-related macular degeneration.
As February is dedicated to educating the public on "Age-Related Macular Degeneration", sponsored by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), let us first provide some basic information on this disease.
What is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration (MD) is caused by the deterioration of the retina. The retina is the back layer of the eye that records the images we see, then sends them along the optic nerve up to the brain. The central portion of the retina is the macula, whose job it is to focus central vision in the eye. Without the macula, we would be unable to recognize colors or faces, drive a car or read.
When the macula cells begin to deteriorate, the images received by the retina cannot be properly read. Early on, macular degeneration does not affect a person's vision, but will as the disease progresses. Wavy or blurry vision followed by complete loss of central vision can occur. People who have very advanced macular degeneration are considered legally blind because so much of their vision is compromised.
While MD affects the central part of a person's vision (imagine the very center of a photo being unreadable), they likely will retain their peripheral vision at least to some degree.
Wet vs. Dry
The vast majority of macular degeneration are the "dry" type (approximately 90%), while only about 10% are "wet". What's the difference?
Dry MD causes vision loss, but patients with this variety may still have good central vision. However, they will experience difficulty reading, limited night vision or vision that fluctuates and changes. In dry MD, the deterioration of the retina occurs when small yellow deposits form under the macula. These deposits cause the macula to dry out and become thin, thus causes it to be unable to function. A person's central vision loss is directly tied to the location and amount of these small deposits.
Wet MD progresses much more quickly than dry MD and is caused by abnormal blood vessels that grow below the retina and macula. These blood vessels can bleed and leak fluid which will cause the macula to move or shift from its normal position. This movement is what will destroy a patient's central vision.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) can be either the wet or dry condition, and as the name indicates, the largest factor is a person's age. People over the age of 50 are most at risk for ARMD. The specific causes of ARMD are still unknown, although doctors and researchers agree heredity and environment play significant roles.
Besides age, other known risk factors include:
- Being Caucasian
- Eating a diet high in saturated fats
- Are overweight
- Have a family history of ARMD
There is at present no cure for MD, however, treatments to slow the disease and retain vision longer are available. If you begin to have difficulty with your central vision, talk to your eye doctor immediately to determine if any form of MD is in process. The stages of MD can take many years to develop. Persons in the above-mentioned risk categories who are over the age of 50 should be especially cognizant of any vision changes that could be MD.
Contact the Villas Senior Care Community today if you have questions or concerns about your loved one's health or vision, or if you are interested in learning more about the services we provide.