Macular degeneration is an eye disease – causing vision loss to more than 10 million Americans!
So by definition, Macular degeneration is an eye disease that causes the degeneration of the macula over time.
Macula is the central portion of the retina and controls our ability to read, drive a car, recognize faces and colors and see objects in fine detail. When the macula is damaged or starts to deteriorate, what we see are blurred images of the world around us or images with missing detail.
In early stages, macular degeneration does not affect vision but as it progresses, people experience wavy or blurred vision, and, if the condition continues to worsen, central vision may be completely lost. People with very advanced macular degeneration are considered legally blind. Even so, because the rest of the retina is still working, they retain their peripheral vision, which is not as clear as central vision.
At present, Macular Degeneration is considered an incurable eye disease.
With so many people effected by macular degeneration, there are so many unanswered questions. Here are the most frequently asked questions on macular degeneration.
Macular degeneration – FAQ
Can you reverse macular degeneration?
Yes, there are some treatment options that can help in reversing macular degeneration like injections in the eyes. But reversal can only help as much as stopping further degeneration of the macula.
Is age related macular degeneration the same as macular degeneration?
Yes, they are both the same things, because this disease develops as the person ages, it is often referred to as age related macular degeneration
What are the types of age-related macular degeneration?
There are two types : wet macular degeneration and dry macular degeneration
Wet macular degeneration
This type of macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels start to leak blood or fluid into the macula, causing chronic vision loss in the form of blurred spots or blurry vision.
Dry macular degeneration
This type of macular degeneration occurs due to the “Dryness” or thinning of the macula. It also causes blurred or reduced central vision. Dry macular degeneration does not progress at an alarming rate, but progresses nonetheless. Once it reaches the chronic or advance stage, it can not be reversed.
Can you get AMD in only one eye, or does it always occur in both?
AMD can occur in one eye only, as an initial sign of the disease showing up. However, over time, it is highly likely for a person with AMD in one eye to develop AMD in the other eye as well.
Although there is no cure, are there treatments available for AMD?
Yes, there are various treatments, you can either go for an expensive eye surgery, or get eye injections or simply opt for a low vision aid like IrisVision.
How is macular degeneration diagnosed?
There are various ways:
1: Amsler Grid Test
In an eye exam, a doctor may use an Amsler grid to test for defects in the center of your vision. If you have macular degeneration, you may see blurred, faded, broken or distorted lines on the grid.
2: Fluorescein Angiography
During an eye exam, the doctor will inject a colored dye into a vein in your arm. The dye will travel to your eye and highlight the blood vessels. By using a special camera, the doctor will take various number of pictures as the dye travels through the blood vessels. The resulting images will show if there are any abnormal blood vessels present or any form of leakage.
3: Indocyanine Green Angiography
Similar to fluorescein angiography, in this test the doctor will also inject a dye in a vein. The colored dye might be used to confirm the findings of a fluorescein angiography or to identify specific types of macular degeneration.
4: Optical Coherence Tomography
This a noninvasive (involving no instruments that go in the body) imaging test. It displays detailed cross-sectional images of the retina. With this test, the doctor will find out if the retina is thinning, thickening or swelling.
5: Examination of the Back of Your Eye
In this eye test, the doctor will put drops in your eyes to dilate them. Then use a special instrument to examine the back of your eye to identify any mottled appearance caused by drusen. Drusen is a yellow deposit that forms under the retina. People with macular degeneration often have a lot of drusen.
What is hereditary macular degeneration?
This is a type of macular degeneration that occurs because of mutated genes. Several genes are strongly associated with the risk of causing macular degeneration by medical experts. However, researchers still continue to study other gene candidates to determine their role in this disease.
Can macular degeneration cause total blindness?
Macular degeneration only effects the macula. So your peripheral vision will stay intact. Meaning, you will not go completely blind, but if your macular degeneration gets acutely worse, you will fall under the ‘legally blind’ category.
What are the Most Common Symptoms of Macular Degeneration?
For dry macular degeneration, you might experience symptoms as:
Visual distortions like seeing straight lines as bent lines
Feel central vision reduced in one eye or both eyes
Needing brighter light when reading or doing work up close
Experiencing difficulty adjusting to low light conditions like entering a room with dim lighting.
Textured words might seem more blurred
Colors might seem less bright and/or intense
You experience difficulty in recognizing faces
With wet macular degeneration, some symptoms may be common with dry macular degeneration like seeing bent lines, reduced central vision, seeing less intense or bright colors. Symptoms specific to wet degeneration include:
A well-formed blurry or a blind spot in your field of vision
A generally hazy vision
Abrupt onset or a rapid worsening of symptoms
Is macular degeneration strictly an old person’s disease?
No, not necessarily. Although, AMD is more commonly found in old people, but other factors like heredity, high blood pressure, obesity, gender also play into causing macular degeneration.
How can I prevent macular degeneration or lessen the severity?
There are various prevention steps like eating a ‘green diet’ and omega rich (fish) diet, exercising regularly and not smoking. Basically a general healthy life style. Also, protecting your eyes by wearing sunglasses in sunlight also helps.
On the other hand, once effected with AMD, there is no cure BUT you can continue taking above mentioned steps to slow it down. You can also take AREDs to slow down AMD
As I mentioned previously, there is no known cure of AMD as yet but there are certain treatments that can help slow down or ease the pain.
If diagnosed with wet AMD, having a laser surgery at an early stage might help slow the degeneration down or even stop further vision loss, but in most cases it is often very hard to tell if the surgery will do more harm then good.
This is a treatment using anti VEGF drugs. They are injected in the effected eye via a thin needle to reduce the number of abnormal vessels. These drugs also slow down the leakage of fluids into the macula.
Eye supplements can help with Dry AMD. Your ophthalmologist will tell you what vitamins or minerals are recommended for your dry AMD but these are found to be generally helpful.
- Vitamin C (500 mg)
- Vitamin E (400 IU)
- Lutein (10 mg)
- Zeaxanthin (2 mg)
- Zinc (80 mg)
- Copper (2 mg)
Low vision aids
Technology in the health sector is advancing particularly fast. There are various low vision aids that can help with macular degeneration. One of them is IrisVision
Irisvision is a vision-enhancing device comprised of a Samsung Gear VR headset and a smartphone. It has superlative features like IrisBubble, which lets you see clearly without blind spots or missing visual detail, adjustable brightness settings, clinical adjustments and so much more.