What is macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration is a chronic disease that causes central vision loss, which progressively worsens over time. As the disease is widespread among adults over 60, it is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration.
The central vision is what you see when you look straight ahead – and your peripheral vision is what you see in the side when looking directly forward. The loss of central vision prevents you from seeing finer details, but as your peripheral vision remains normal, you can still see around objects. To clarify, if you look at a clock, you may not see the hands, but you can see the numbers.
The disease develops typically in one eye at first, and then the healthy eye compensates for the loss of vision – meaning the condition can go undetected for a while. When the disease progresses, people increasingly experience difficulties with driving, reading, and other activities.
Different types of glaucoma
There are two types of macular degeneration: dry and wet. Dry macular degeneration is the most common form, accounting for 85 to 90 percent of reported cases, while wet macular degenerationaffects 10 to 15 percent of people who suffer the condition.
Dry macular degeneration
The cause of dry macular degeneration is small, yellow clumps of protein that are called ‘drusen’. When the macular thins with age, the drusen develop underneath, causing retinal damage and vision loss.
The symptoms of dry macular degeneration include the following:
- distortion of straight lines in your field of vision
- a decline in central vision
- a need for brighter lighting
- difficulty adapting to dim lights
- trouble recognizing faces
Treatment for dry macular degeneration
There is no cure for macular degeneration, but your eye doctor can recommend a treatment that will slow down the progression. Sometimes surgery can be helpful. Recently there has been some advanced surgical procedures such as implanting a telescopic lens will in the eye to magnify the field of vision, these procedures are still in their testing phase but do show promise in some cases.
Wet macular degeneration
This condition is more severe than dry macular degeneration and develops a lot faster. It occurs when new abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina. These blood vessels may leak fluids that cause scarring of the macula, which can lead to you seeing a dark spot in the centre of the vision.
Many people don’t realize they have the condition until their vision has become very blurry. Which is why it is important to have regular eye exams to detect early signs.
Some of the symptoms resemble those of the dry, such as visual distortions and reduced central vision. Other symptoms can also include:
- a blurry spot in your field of vision
- hazy vision
- rapidly worsening symptoms
Treatment for wet macular degeneration
Medication can be useful for this condition. It involves an injection into your eye to stop the growth of new blood vessels. This treatment may take a few weeks to take effect.
Another treatment is photodynamic therapy, where your doctor injects medication into a vein in your arm and uses a laser to close up leaking blood vessels in your eye. You may need multiple treatments for it to work, but it can improve your vision.
A third therapy option is a photocoagulation, which involves using a high-energy laser to destroy abnormal blood vessels. This can stop bleeding and reduce further damage to your macula. However, it is a risky procedure that can cause scarring and leave a blind spot on your eye. Even if successful, abnormal blood vessels can regrow, and you need to repeat the treatment.
If none of these options are suitable, vision aids have helped many to adjust to their vision loss. A variety of devices with special lenses or electronic systems can create larger images of nearby objects. These can help people to make the most out of their remaining vision.
Macular degeneration risk factors
Certain risk factors can increase your chances of getting macular degeneration:
- High blood pressure or cholesterol
- Having family members who suffer from this condition
- Eating a lot of saturated fat
- Being light-skinned
- Being female
- Having a light eye colour
You can reduce the risk of the disease by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and:
- Avoid smoking
- Eating a healthy diet (avoiding saturated fat)
- Maintaining healthy weights
- Eating a diet rich in colourful fruit and vegetables
- Maintaining low blood pressure and cholesterol
Book an appointment
It’s important to have annual eye exams, even if your vision seems normal. We can conduct a variety of tests to detect early signs of macular degeneration. Treatment can slow the condition and make it less severe.
We have experienced and dedicated eye doctors in both of our locations in Mississauga and Brampton, who have over 20 years of experience in detecting and treating macular degeneration. Book an appointment for an eye exam today!