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February is Macular Degeneration Awareness Month

Macular Degeneration

  • The leading cause of vision loss, affecting more than 10 million Americans – more than cataracts and glaucoma combined.
  • Considered an incurable eye disease.
  • Caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, responsible for focusing central vision in the eye, and it controls our ability to read, drive a car, recognize faces or colors, and see objects in fine detail.

Types of Macular Degeneration

  1. Dry (85-90% of cases) – Small white or yellowish deposits, called drusen, form on the macula, causing it to deteriorate or degenerate over time. Slowly progresses.
  2. Wet (10-15% of cases) – Abnormal blood vessels under the retina begin to grow toward the macula. They can easily break, bleed, and leak fluid, damaging the macula. This can result in a rapid and severe loss of central vision.

Stages of Macular Degeneration

There are three stages of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

  • Early AMD – Most people do not experience vision loss in the early stage of AMD, which is why regular eye exams are important, particularly if you have more than one risk factor (see below). Early AMD is diagnosed by the presence of medium-sized drusen (yellow deposits beneath the retina).
  • Intermediate AMD – At this stage, there may be some vision loss, but there still may not be noticeable symptoms. A comprehensive eye exam with specific tests will look for larger drusen and/or pigment changes in the retina.
  • Late AMD – At this stage, vision loss has become noticeable.

Causes of AMD

The specific factors are not conclusively known. At this point, what is known is that is includes both heredity and environment.

Risk Factors

The biggest risk factor for Macular Degeneration is age. Your risk increases as you age, and the disease is most likely to occur in those 55 and older.

Other risk factors include:

  • Genetics – People with a family history of AMD are at a higher risk.
  • Race – Caucasians are more likely to develop the disease than African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos.
  • Smoking – Smoking doubles the risk of AMD.

Treatment

There is currently no known cure for Macular Degeneration, but there are things you can do to reduce your risk and possibly slow the progression once you’ve been diagnosed. For example, one can pursue lifestyle changes like eating healthy, exercise, avoiding smoking, and protecting your eyes from UV light.

Sometimes vision is not satisfactory, even with glasses correction. Our office offers low vision examinations and aids that can help enhance the loss of vision that has been experienced by macular degeneration.