Age-related macular degeneration is a progressive eye disease that ultimately results in causing permanent vision loss. The latest research showcases that nearly 1.5 million people in the United Kingdom are affected by macular degeneration. The number is significantly high and causes concerning behaviour among the population.
With a total of 400 increasing cases rising every year, people now want to know the root cause of its occurrence and how it can be prevented. With macular degeneration, you lose many admiring hobbies of yourself that are dearly performed with joy like reading, gardening, watching movies or recognising the face of your family members. Read on to find out the cause, treatment and symptoms of age-related macular degeneration so that you take important measures quite early in your life with proper knowledge.
What is macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration, which is also known as age-related macular degeneration, is one of the leading causes of vision loss or blurred vision in human beings. It generally occurs at the age of 50 and above. There are no early signs or symptoms of developing macular degeneration however with time, you start to experience its gradual change in the eyes. Your vision starts to deteriorate in one eye or even both eyes at a time and with no time, your vision turns blurry. Macular degeneration is a progressive eye disease hence you will not experience complete blindness in the beginning. However, it results in the loss of the central vision which ultimately makes it hard for you to see objects clearly. It leads to struggle in driving, reading, recognising or doing any basic chores of your daily life without any complexity.
What causes macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration develops when there is damage to the macula of the eye that functions to render sharp visual acuity. The macula is located at the back of the eye and is also a part of the retina. It contains photoreceptor cells that determine the light rays and further send the signals to the brain for forming an image. It is responsible for proving sharp and clear vision at the centre of the eye that is possible with the help of good light. Once it gets damaged, the vision sharpness reduces into being blurry, dark and distorted. Now the activities which involve sharpness in vision like driving, watching, reading, photography or doing some crafty work like painting or sewing.
Is macular degeneration hereditary?
Macular degeneration can be caused by hereditary or environmental reasons. Yes! Macular degeneration is hereditary and it runs in the family. If you have family members who had this eye condition and you are at very high risk of developing it too. However, you can decrease the risk of developing a hereditary macular disease by making better lifestyle choices. Healthy decisions like quitting smoking, have lower cholesterol and eat a healthy diet that contains a high nutrient value and green leafy vegetables. Carotenoids pigments in fruit and vegetables offer pigment to the macula and support your vision acuity hence the greener the better. It is a proven fact that taking healthy measures and nutritional supplements help to decrease the progression of macular degeneration in most cases.
Do LED lights cause macular degeneration?
LED lights do not cause macular degeneration. Though blue light rays and LED light result in causing various discomfort in eyes and these discomforts slowly rise to cause severe vision problems but it is very less likely to develop macular degeneration due to LED light exposure. However high-intensity blue light rays from any digital source are hazardous to our eyes and cause potential threat. Since our smartphones and computers emit high-power light rays which are very bright to the eyes, it is asked by many industries to purposely filter out the light rays. However, it is not successful in doing so and the light rays cause irritation and painful eye condition due to increased hours of consumption. Hence you must carry blue light glasses while you are operating on any screen.
Forms of Macular Degeneration
In macular degeneration, you experience two different forms. One is dry macular degeneration and the other is wet macular degeneration.
1. Dry Macular Degeneration
It is also known as nonexudative AMD. This type of macular degeneration includes the very beginning stage and the middle stage of AMD. You don’t seem to see or experience any major vision problems and see minimal signs or symptoms in your eyes. Dry macular degeneration is the most abundant in individuals out of the two and it accounts for 90% of the most cases.
What causes dry macular degeneration?
Dry macular degeneration is caused by the slow breakdown of macula cells. Which leads to blurry vision at first then a blank spot starts to develop in the central vision of the eye. Therefore here you’ll see the symptom quite less and insignificant and then it starts to turn more volatile.
2. Wet Macular Degeneration
Wet macular degeneration is also known as neovascular or exudative AMD. It is rare and 10-20% of them is most of the macular degeneration. Wet macular degeneration develops after wet macular degeneration is one of the severe conditions of both forms. In wet macular degeneration, new blood vessels start to emerge beneath the retina of the eye. With time, these new vessels start to break and start leaking blood and other fluids into the macula. The fluid leakage causes more damage to the eye and vision by reflecting a scarring image.
How quickly does wet macular degeneration progress?
Wet AMD is known for being quite rapid in causing its effect in the eyes and vision. It takes about days to a week to cause loss of vision over time and continue to progress. It is however rare to experience and has a lower possibility of occurrence than dry macular degeneration. But it is quick in causing vision damage and turns potentially threatening to you.
Can wet macular degeneration be reversed?
Wet macular degeneration is the most advanced form of age-related macular degeneration which only results in vision loss. It can occur directly but is known for usually occurring after dry AMD. It happens because of blood vessels growth and their breakdown, it leads to irreversible damage to the macula photoreceptors in the eye if it is not treated within time.
What are the symptoms of macular degeneration?
Here are the most well known and commonly experienced early symptoms of macular degeneration:
- Blurry Vision
- Distorted vision; straight-line turn wavy and other part appear half blank
- Slow formation of visual images when exposed to bright light
- Difficulty in reading, writing or driving
- Unclear image with the blank appearance
- Reduction in the sharpness of the vision
- Struggle in differentiating colours
When you are looking for early signs for macular degeneration, direct and sudden blindness doesn’t happen to you. You can experience the set of mentioned above signs when you get charged with macular degeneration. There can be other complicating conditions in your eyes other than these symptoms which can be worse if you have any health condition. If you experience any sort of severe condition in your eye which you are unfamiliar about then seek direct help from an optometrist in an instant.
What are the risk factors for macular degeneration?
Age: If you are at or above the age of 50 then you are most likely to develop macular degeneration than any other.
Smoking: It is one of the biggest threats to eyes than any other and increases the risk of developing macular degeneration by three times more.
Family History: If your beloved family members or relatives have experienced this eye disease then you are most likely to develop it.
Obesity: Fatness of the body is also a significant risk factor in developing macular degeneration, most especially among the male population.
High Blood Pressure: Elevated blood pressure is significantly connected with developing macular degeneration. It is because high blood pressure ceases the oxygen flow in the eyes which increases the odds of AMD.
Harmful Sun radiation: Sun harmful rays like the UV rays are known for contributing macular degeneration exponentially than any other environmental factor.
Digital Screen: Screens are undeniably one of the most harmful parts in creating severe eye disease and one of them is also macular degeneration. Prolong hours of screen consumption without any use of filter leads to the possibility of developing macular degeneration.
What are the steps of diagnosis of Macular degeneration?
The diagnosis of macular degeneration is most likely to be seen in the change of macula, less of vision change however it is interconnected. Wet macular degeneration is the most advanced stage hence there’s less time left to detect as the result takes place quite early. However, here are some of the well-known steps for diagnosis of macular degeneration.
Regular eye exam: Even regular eye examination can help you to detect any major eye problems in your eyes. Go for a routine annual examination and get your eyes tested even if you don’t suspect any major symptoms as our eyes naturally go through changes with time.
Snellen Chart: It is also known as a 20/20 vision test which helps you to see the sharpness and clarity of vision. You read the chart of written text and you’ll get a score of a vision. If it's 20/20 then you have normal vision but if it's more than that, you are bound to experience major eye problems.
Dilated Eye exam: Pupil dilation is also an eye examination for detecting visual changes. In this particular test, eye drops are dropped in the pupil which gives a clear and visible look in the eye. The optometrist is looking for any yellow spot under the retina while completely examining the optic nerve and the retina to see major changes. If there are changes and spots found then it might indicate that you can macular degeneration.
Amsler Grid Test
It is a grid that is designed for eye doctors to detect the problems in the vision which are most often caused because of a macula in the eye or the optic nerve. The damage to the macula can be caused by macular degeneration or other disease and the Amsler grid test helps to successfully recognise it. It contains horizontal and vertical lines with dots present in the centre of the boxes created by the line. In the test process, you’ll be asked to stare at the dot for a while and explain what visuals you are seeing on the grid. If you see the lines bent or distorted then you have developed macular degeneration. However, in many cases, people fail to see the lines and experience black or dark space which leads to a more serious visual condition.
Fluorescent angiography is a diagnostic test known for the use of fluorescent dye and a specialised camera to detect the circulation of the retina and choroid in the eye. In this test, the fluorescent dye is injected in the arm of the patient. The immersed dye from the arm travels to the retina of the eye through the blood vessel, the optometrist takes photographs with its specialised camera as the dye is visible. The resulting images help to recognise the state of the blood vessel in the eye and see if the blood vessels are leaking or not.
What can you do to prevent macular degeneration?
There’s nothing you can do to prevent it from happening to your eyes other than taking a few healthy lifestyle choices which are its risk factor. Like quit smoking and try to eat green and leafy vegetables in your meal and your diet should contain important nutrients like vitamins and protein.
What is the treatment for macular degeneration?
Depending on which form of macular degeneration you have, the following treatments are suitable for your eyes.
Dry Macular Degeneration
Essential Vitamins are known for the successful treatment of macular degeneration or even reducing the progression of eye disease.
- Vitamin C (500mg)
- Beta Carotene(15mg)
- Lutein(10mg) and Zeaxanthin(2mg)
- Vitamin E
- Zinc Oxide (80mg)
- Cupric Oxide (2mg)
It is highly advisable by a top optometrist that you should only take these vitamins supplement only after talking to your doctor about your health situation. Express about what medicines you take and what you are allergic to remove the risk of any dangerous clash between medicines. Lastly, don’t take vitamins in high doses, take as much as it is advised. A healthy diet is one of the most important things to have in your life, green vegetables and nuts help slow the process of AMD more than any major treatment.
Wet Macular Degeneration
Wet macular degeneration is also recommended with daily vitamins as mentioned above. However since it rapidly results in vision loss within weeks or days, few surgical treatments are also available to slow the process and prevent the problem from emerging anymore. Here is the listed treatment:
This therapy involves injecting in the eye with drugs that support in ceasing the growth of the blood vessels in the eye. It helps to decrease the leakage and from further growth of those unwanted and hazardous vessels. With the help of this therapy, your vision is brought back.
Other treatments which involve the treatment of macular degeneration are photodynamic therapy and thermal laser surgery.
Common Question about Macular degeneration
How does age-related macular degeneration affect vision?
Age-related macular degeneration can lead to a blurred and black vision where you can’t see anything clear like you used to. You can’t drive, write, read and recognize the face of a human being as your central vision is damaged. In most situations, macular degeneration also results in complete vision loss.
Which is worse glaucoma or macular degeneration?
Glaucoma and macular degeneration are both visions of threatening diseases and nothing can be considered better to experience. Both of them cause vision problems and lead to vision loss hence they are equally harmful.
Can you go blind with macular degeneration?
Yes! With wet macular degeneration, you can turn complete blind.
Is it possible to get macular degeneration in one eye?
Yes! It is possible to develop macular degeneration in a single eye too.
Can you drive with macular degeneration?
Activities like driving, drawing, reading, writing or seeing anything with clarity is impossible with macular degeneration. Patients with macular degeneration are suggested not to drive as it can lead to dangerous situations.