Macular degeneration occurs when the area of the eye responsible for detailed central vision begins to suffer. This is the leading cause of poor vision among Americans over the age of 65, and it is expected that there will be more than 3 million people with this condition by 2020. In the past, there was no treatment available for macular degeneration, but now the condition can be treated, and if detected early enough vision loss can be prevented.
Macular degeneration has no symptoms before vision loss, so the only way to prevent vision loss due to macular degeneration is with regular eye exams that allow your doctor to look for the signs of macular degeneration. If you have been diagnosed with macular degeneration or have not had an eye exam recently, we can help you protect your vision.
Macular Degeneration: Definition and Risk Factors
The macula is part of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. The macula is a special part of the retina that has a higher density of light-sensing cells and a different kind of light-sensing cells than are found in other parts of the retina. The macula helps us with detailed central vision and color vision. If you suffer macular damage, you may have a black shadow in the center of your vision and you may be unable to resolve fine details.
There are two types of macular degeneration: wet and dry. Dry macular degeneration is common and is characterized by a breakdown in the light-sensitive cells of the macula. Wet macular degeneration often develops from the dry form–this occurs when new blood vessels form under the macula, then begin to leak blood and fluid. Dry macular degeneration progresses slowly, but wet macular degeneration will quickly lead to vision loss.
Everyone over age 50 is at a risk for macular degeneration, but your risk may be increased if you:
- Have a family history of macular degeneration
- Are of Caucasian ancestry
Some studies suggest that a diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish may reduce risk for macular degeneration.
Macular Degeneration Treatment
There is no good treatment available for dry macular degeneration, but specially formulated vitamins can be used to slow its progress in some people. These haven’t been shown to benefit people with the early form of the condition, but once vision loss begins they can not only slow the progress in an affected eye, they may prevent its development in the other eye. Alternative formulations might be made for smokers–quitting smoking may also help protect your vision.
Wet macular degeneration can quickly affect your vision, but it can also be treated more readily than the dry form. Injections of a compound that neutralizes hormones causing blood-vessel growth can slow damage, and many people actually see vision return. Photodynamic therapy utilizes a light-sensitive compound that is drawn to the abnormal blood vessels, then kills them when activated by a specific frequency of light. Lasers can also be used for targeted treatment of blood vessels in the macula, similar to laser treatments for diabetic retinopathy.
For more information please see Questions about Macular Degeneration.
If you are age 50 or older, don’t risk your vision. Please contact the Eye Surgery Center of Louisiana to schedule a vision exam at one of our New Orleans-area locations.