The macula is a layer of tissue at the center of the retina that provides our central vision. As we age, changes occur in this area and the tissue becomes irregular, thus distorting central vision.
Macular degeneration is typically a disease associated with older adults. It won’t cause total blindness, but it affects your quality of life by blurring or causing a blind spot in your straight-ahead vision.
Macular degeneration tends to affect adults age 50 and older. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is more common in Caucasians than it is in other races, especially after age 75, and women are more likely to develop it than men. And, because women tend to live longer than men, they are more likely to experience the effects of severe vision loss from the disease.
Dry macular degeneration, in which tissue deterioration is not accompanied by bleeding, is the most common form of the disease.
A lot of research is aimed at why some people lose vision from macular degeneration and others don’t. High blood pressure, extended sun exposure and certain vitamin deficiencies may be related.
What are some symptoms I might notice?
Dry macular degeneration usually develops gradually and painlessly. According to the Mayo Clinic, here are some visions changes you might be able to detect:
- The need for increasingly bright light when reading or doing close work.
- Increasing difficulty adapting to low light levels, such as when entering a dimly lit restaurant.
- Increasing blurriness of printed words.
- A decrease in the intensity or brightness of colors.
- Difficulty recognizing faces.
- A gradual increase in the haziness of your overall vision.
- A blurred or blind spot in the center of your visual field combined with a profound drop in the sharpness (acuity) of your central vision.
Macular degeneration doesn’t necessarily affect both eyes equally. One eye might remain fine for years while the other is beginning to experience problems. The better eye may compensate for the weaker one, affecting your ability to notice any change and underscoring the need for your annual eye health exam. When the condition develops in both eyes it will negatively impact your vision and lifestyle, and it eventually does develop in both eyes in most cases.
How is it treated?
Macular degeneration, unfortunately, cannot be reversed. It can only be slowed. Early detection and careful monitoring of your vision by an eye care professional are the best methods to prevent vision changes from macular degeneration.
Dry macular degeneration typically progresses very slowly. If only one eye is affected you may never experience any real vision problems. When it is present in both eyes vitamins may be recommended as research has shown they can slow down changes in the macula.
In the more severe form of the disease, wet macular degeneration, injections or laser treatment may be the recommended course of action.