There's no question that macular degeneration can be one of the scariest changes we can experience when it comes to eye health, since it can result in functional blindness.
In a nutshell, the macula is the "bulls eye," or center, of the retina. It records the images you see and sends them via the optic nerve to your brain. The macula is one hundred times more sensitive to detail than the rest of the retina, and as such helps you discern fine detail needed for everyday activity.
There Are Two Types of Macular Degeneration—Wet and Dry
Ninety percent of people with macular degeneration have the dry form, which is caused by the natural aging, drying, and thinning of the tissues of the macula. This form develops slowly, and results in a mild loss of vision. Symptoms of macular degeneration can include a dark or empty area in the center of vision, blurry or fuzzy vision, and wavy effect of straight lines.
The remaining 10 percent of people with macular degeneration have the wet form, which is caused by the formation of abnormal blood vessels in the back of the eye that leak fluid or blood, which blur central vision. The vision loss can be rapid and severe but, fortunately, laser surgery (medically known as laser photocoagulation) can be used to fight it in some cases. Treatment of macular degeneration involves aiming a high energy beam of light directly on the leaking blood vessels to “seal” them.
Of course, there’s always risk with surgery, and this procedure is no exception. A laser will burn some of the normal nerve cells in the macula along with the leaky blood vessels, and this will result in some vision loss, so vision can actually become worse after surgery. However, your vision will be much less likely to continue to worsen, whereas it almost surely would if the wet AMD were left untreated.
What Are the Macular Degeneration Warning Signs?
For wet and dry macular degeneration, the most common warning signs in your eye health are slight blurring of vision and a dark spot in the center of vision. You also may have difficulty seeing at dusk, reading in dim light, or recognizing faces unless people are physically very close to you.
If you already have any of these eye health changes, run—don’t walk—to an ophthalmologist, because you could be eligible for laser surgery if you have wet macular degeneration.
If you currently do not have macular degeneration but feel you may be at risk, or if you have a less-advanced case of the dry form of the disease, then taking antioxidants, following a good diet, and taking any other steps possible to support your eye health can lower your risk profile can potentially slow or halt the progression of macular degeneration.
Now it's your turn: Have you, or someone you know, been treated for macular degeneration?