Our precious ability to see can come under attack from numerous sources, and macular degeneration can be thought of as a stealth attacker, sneaking up on us and robbing of our vision as we age. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among those age 55 and above and affects 10 million Americans. Read on for 10 important things to know about this eye disease.
- The macula of the eye is located in the center of the retina, and is responsible for clear, straight-ahead vision, which is vital for tasks such as reading.
- In its early stages, macular degeneration frequently has no symptoms but can be detected with an eye exam. Sometimes the symptoms are mild and unnoticeable, such as a slight distortion of straight lines.
- The first symptoms you may notice is a blurry area at the center of your vision, progressing to completely blank or white areas. Colors may become distorted and your entire field of vision will look less sharp.
- Risk factors for macular degeneration include smoking and family history. Those who are Caucasian, are female, have light eye color, have high blood pressure, and have a history of more exposure to sunlight are also at higher risk.
- During an eye exam your ophthalmologist will look for drusen, yellow deposits that occur naturally as you age but become enlarged with macular degeneration.
- Macular degeneration may affect only one eye or both, and both eyes can be in different stages of the disease at the same time. Having macular degeneration in one eye increases your risk for having it in the other eye.
- Day-to-day coping with low vision can be accomplished with reading glasses, magnified LED lights for reading, larger print, magnifiers for television and computer screens and talking calculators, clocks and watches.
- The National Eye Institute conducted studies testing the effectiveness of supplements on advanced macular degeneration and found that vitamins C, E, zinc, copper, and beta carotene or lutein/zeaxanthin could slow the progression of the disease in some patients.
- Injections of VEGF, laser surgery and photodynamic therapy are sometimes used with advanced cases, but there is no cure for macular degeneration at this time.
- Experimental therapies include the implantation of a tiny telescope into the eye, which magnifies your field of vision and reduces blurriness.
Anyone facing a possible loss of vision will need a great deal of support. An ophthalmologist like Malkani Retina Center is a wonderful source of information and resources for those affected by macular degeneration.