Macular degeneration is a progressive disease that can significantly impair a person’s vision. However, regular eye exams with an eye doctor can aid in the early detection of macular degeneration, allowing for early intervention and treatment to help preserve vision and eye health.
Genetics plays a role in the progression of macular degeneration. If you have a family history of the disease, you are more likely to develop it yourself.
Researchers have discovered several genes linked to an increased risk of macular degeneration, and genetic testing could be used to determine an individual’s risk of developing the disease.
It’s important to note that genetics is only one of many factors that can contribute to the development of macular degeneration; smoking and poor diet can also play a significant role.
If you think you may be experiencing macular degeneration, visit your optometrist as soon as possible.
What Is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is a condition that affects the macula, the central part of the retina that is responsible for sharp and detailed vision. The retina is the part of the eye that detects light and sends signals to the brain, which allows us to see images.
In macular degeneration, the macula breaks down over time, causing a gradual loss of central vision. This can make it difficult to:
- See fine details
- Read small print
- Recognize faces
- Drive a car
There are two main types of macular degeneration: dry and wet. Both types of macular degeneration can affect one or both eyes and have varying degrees of severity. Some people may suffer from mild vision loss, while others may go legally blind.
Dry Macular Degeneration
Dry macular degeneration is more common and is usually associated with aging eye changes. It’s distinguished by the presence of yellow deposits in the macula known as drusen, which can cause the macula to thin and break down over time.
Central vision becomes progressively worse as the macula deteriorates.
Wet Macular Degeneration
Wet macular degeneration is less common, but it can be more severe. It’s caused by abnormal retinal blood vessel growth, which can leak fluid and blood into the macula. This can result in sudden, severe vision loss and may necessitate immediate treatment to prevent further damage.
Risk Factors of Macular Degeneration
Several factors can increase a person’s risk of developing macular degeneration, including:
- Age: People over 60 are more likely to develop macular degeneration. The macula can deteriorate with age.
- Genetics: Macular degeneration has a genetic component. If you have a family history of the disease, you are more likely to develop it yourself.
- Tobacco use: Tobacco use can cause damage to the blood vessels in the eye, resulting in vision loss.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese can increase your chances of developing macular degeneration. This is thought to be because excess body fat can cause inflammation in the body, which can affect blood vessels in the eye.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure, or hypertension, can harm the blood vessels in the eye.
- Sun exposure: Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can increase the risk of macular degeneration. When going outside, wearing sunglasses and a hat can help protect your eyes from UV damage.
- Poor diet: A diet high in saturated and trans fats, processed foods, and sugar may increase the risk of macular degeneration. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids may help lower the risk.
How to Treat Macular Degeneration
While there is no cure for macular degeneration at this time, treatments such as injections, laser therapy, and photodynamic therapy can help slow the disease’s progression and preserve vision.
Quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet rich in leafy green vegetables and fish, and exercising regularly may also help reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration.
- Anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) injections: Anti-VEGF injections are a common treatment for wet macular degeneration. This procedure entails injecting medication into the eye to help reduce the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the retina, which can lead to vision loss.
- Laser therapy: Laser therapy is another treatment option for macular degeneration. The laser is used in the retina to destroy abnormal blood vessels or to seal leaking blood vessels.
- Photodynamic therapy: Photodynamic therapy is another treatment option for wet macular degeneration. In this procedure, a light-activated drug is injected into the bloodstream and then activated with a laser to destroy abnormal blood vessels.
Get Your Eyes Checked
Regular eye exams can aid in the early detection of macular degeneration, allowing for early intervention and treatment to help preserve vision and eye health. Your eye doctor can also recommend lifestyle changes that can lower your risk of developing macular degeneration.