Macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of vision loss and blindness among adults aged 50 and above.
When the part of the retina responsible for your sharp central vision, called the macula, begins to deteriorate, Macular Degeneration is the result. Central vision is the visual field that you rely on to focus on objects clearly, to read or to drive. Macular Degeneration affects the macula, slowly reducing your vision, often so slowly that you may not notice it until significant vision loss has already taken place. Although Macular Degeneration does not result in blindess, the damage done cannot be reversed.
There are two types of Macular Degeneration eye doctors usually refer to: either dry or wet. The dry form is more common than wet macular degeneration. In dry Macular Degeneration, light-sensitive cells in the macula gradually break down, beginning to blur central vision in the affected eye. Over time, central vision in the affected eye can be slowly lost as the macula begins to further deteriorate.
In the wet form of the disease, macular degeneration can lead to more severe vision loss, as the more advanced stage of the disease causes damage, which the eye reacts to naturally by creating new and abnormal blood vessels beneath the retina. These new blood vessels are delicate and can leak blood and fluid, causing damage and scarring of the retina, leading to further vision loss.
Early and intermediate stages usually occur without symptoms. Only a comprehensive dilated eye exam can detect Macular Degeneration. The eye exam includes a visual acuity test that measures how well you see, a dilated eye exam and the use of an Amsler grid, which consists of a grid of straight lines with a central focus point in the center. Someone with AMD may see the central area darkened or will report that the lines are wavy. This is a very effective and easy way for you and your eye practitioner to monitor changes in your central vision.
Aside from age, other risk factors that can increase your chances of developing AMD include smoking, high blood pressure, UV exposure and family history of the disease. It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which includes quitting smoking, exercising regularly and maintaining normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Eating a diet rich in colorful vegetables and fish can boost the vitamins that naturally protect the eyes from AMD. We may recommend vitamin and mineral supplements based on your risk factors and level of developing macular degeneration.
Early detection of AMD is the best way to control the condition and reduce damage to your eyesight. That's just one of the reasons why it's so important to get a comprehensive eye exam from Dr. Lubeck and our Cedar Park eye care team at least once a year.