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October 10, 2022

What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration is a chronic condition affecting the macula in the retina’s center. Symptoms including blurred, distorted vision and blindspots ranging from mild to serious in severity.

One of the most common causes of vision loss for older adults, macular degeneration (often called AMD) affects central vision. Objects in the middle of your eyesight appear distorted, warped, or undetectable. There is no pain associated with the condition, and due to its gradual onset, many patients don’t realize they suffer from macular degeneration until later stages. Scheduling a checkup with an optometrist is the best method to protect your vision.

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What is macular degeneration?

What causes Macular Degeneration?

The early stages of macular degeneration (dry) are caused by a thinning of the macula, an area of the retina responsible for central vision. The late stage of the condition (wet) occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow near the macula. The abnormal growth results in scarring of the macula.

How to prevent Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration’s onset is caused by aging. There isn’t a way to completely avoid macular degeneration, but certain lifestyle choices may decrease the chances of developing it. They include:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Regular exercise
  • Wearing sunglasses
  • A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Regular eye exams

The 2 Types of Macular Degeneration

The two types of macular degeneration are dry macular degeneration (atrophic) and wet macular degeneration (exudative).

Dry Macular Degeneration (atrophic):

This is the most common form, affecting up to 85% of people with AMD. It starts when tiny yellow protein deposits begin to develop under the macula, the part of your eye responsible for translating light into the images you see. Vision loss from dry AMD tends to occur gradually and rarely leads to the more severe, wet variety.

Wet Macular Degeneration (exudative):

This rarer version of the disease affects about 15% of people with AMD. Vision loss occurs due to blood vessels leaking fluid into the retina and macula, causing dark spots in people’s centers of vision. This version is much more severe and can quickly lead to blindness if left untreated.

 

What is the difference between wet and dry macular degeneration?

Wet macular degeneration is much less common but always begins in the dry stage. In the dry stage, the retina and macula weaken. That leads to vision impairment and possibly to wet macular degeneration if left untreated.Vision loss is more rapid with wet macular degeneration. It’s important to have regular checkups with your optometrist to catch the condition in its early stages.

Does macular degeneration cause blindness?

Macular degeneration almost never causes total blindness. It can cause legal blindness, making an early diagnosis essential. Regular eye exams are always a good idea.

Glasses for Macular Degeneration

In many situations, macular degeneration is manageable with glasses. Depending on your needs, there are a number of options your optometrist may prescribe or recommend. These include:

  • Telescope lenses for driving
  • Sunglasses for early macular degeneration patients
  • Polycarbonate lenses to protect your eyes against debris
  • Prismatic lenses to decrease the size of blindspots
  • Magnifying glasses for reading

Driving with Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration has a considerable impact on the ability to drive. It may become difficult to read road signs or clearly see objects on the road. Luckily, many macular degenerative patients can drive with low-vision glasses. Once diagnosed with macular degeneration, an eye doctor can prescribe the correct lenses for your situation.

Treatment options

There are multiple treatment options for macular degeneration. While the condition isn’t curable, there are still steps and procedures to counteract associated vision loss. A healthy diet, cutting out tobacco, and regular exercise are always a good start – more so for individuals with macular degeneration. Your doctor also has procedures they can perform, so make sure to have eye exams on a regular basis.

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