Uncover the Myths & Realities of Macular Degeneration
Are you living with macular degeneration? If so, you are likely aware of the feelings of uncertainty and confusion that can come from managing this vision loss condition. Unfortunately, a great deal of misinformation surrounds macular degeneration, which often leads to additional fear and distress.
That’s why knowing what’s fact versus fiction is important to manage your disorder effectively. In this blog, we’ll examine macular degeneration in-depth, expose the myths associated with this condition, and offer guidance on how individuals with MD may take charge of their visual health.
What is Macular Degeneration?
When a person has macular degeneration, their central vision is compromised, making it challenging for them to perceive things that are immediately in front of them. This condition, common in people aged 50 and over, is caused by ageing.
Macular degeneration impacts central vision by affecting the macula, the central part of the retina at the back of the eye. People with this disease have trouble maintaining their peripheral vision when seeing objects in the centre of their visual field; however, it does not result in total blindness.
Tasks may become challenging when you lose your central vision. In cases of significant vision impairment, you may struggle with reading, recognizing faces, driving, cooking, and doing home repairs. If you have severe macular degeneration, it could result in legal blindness. Additionally, changes in your lifestyle may trigger depression and anxiety. Furthermore, individuals with AMD might encounter Charles Bonnet syndrome, which causes visual hallucinations.
Types of Macular Degeneration
- Dry (Atrophic) Macular Degeneration – The dry form of macular degeneration is more common, affecting almost 90% of people with this condition. This occurs when protein deposits, known as drusen, gather beneath the macula, leading to its drying and thinning. While gradual vision loss may occur over time, most people do not completely lose their central vision. Sometimes, the dry form may progress to the wet form.
- Wet (Exudative) Macular Degeneration – Abnormal blood vessels can develop under your retina and macula, which leads to wet (exudative) macular degeneration. This causes blood and fluid to leak and bulge in your macula. Your central vision may develop dark spots as a result of this. About 10% of those with macular degeneration have the more severe wet form of the condition. Without treatment, it can quickly progress to total loss of central vision.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration may not show any initial symptoms and may only be diagnosed when it progresses or impacts both eyes. Symptoms most commonly caused by macular degeneration include:
- Blurry or unclear vision
- Difficulty reading small print or driving
- The appearance of dark, blurry areas in the centre of your vision
- Affects colour perception
Causes of Macular Degeneration
Although macular degeneration mostly runs in families, it may occur in individuals with no such history. It happens when the macula at the back of the eye deteriorates for unknown reasons. The age of the individual is a huge factor in macular degeneration.
Macular degeneration that is not related to age may be linked to various factors like diabetes, head injuries, infections, and a diet that lacks essential nutrients.
Macular Degeneration – Risk Factors
Macular degeneration is a disease commonly affecting individuals over 60 years old and can be hereditary as several genes have been linked to the condition. Additionally, it is more prevalent in white people.
Macular degeneration risk can be considerably increased by smoking or frequent exposure to tobacco smoke. Additionally, the chance of acquiring this disorder may increase in persons with heart or blood vessel problems.
How is Macular Degeneration Diagnosed?
- Dilated Eye Exam: Your provider will give you eye drops that will widen your pupils, and then they will use a special lens to examine the inside of your eyes.
- Amsler Grid Test: Your healthcare provider might ask you to use an Amsler grid consisting of a grid of straight lines with a large dot in the centre. Your task will be identifying any blurry, wavy, or broken lines or sections on the grid. A significant amount of distortion can indicate macular degeneration. You can use the grid at home to keep track of any changes in your symptoms.
- Fluorescein Angiography: During the procedure, your healthcare provider will inject a yellow dye (fluorescein) into a vein in your arm. Then, a special camera will track the dye as it moves through the blood vessels in your eye. The resulting photos will show if there is any leakage under your macula.
- Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT): The machine used for imaging can capture detailed pictures of your retina and macula situated at the back of your eye. This process is painless and non-invasive. You can gaze into the lens while the machine takes photographs.
- Optical Coherence Tomography Angiography (OCTA): This tool uses laser technology instead of fluorescein dye and an OCT scanning device to produce 3D images of blood flow in your eye.
Macular Degeneration – Treatment
Dry MD Treatment
Currently, there is no treatment available for the dry form of MD. However, individuals with significant vision loss or many drusen may benefit from specific nutritional supplements. The findings of the AREDS and AREDS 2 trials suggest that taking daily dosages of specific nutrients, like vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc, and copper, may help persons with particular types of drusen delay the onset of dry AMD.
Consult your ophthalmologist to determine if taking vitamins and minerals is recommended for your dry AMD. Please keep in mind that not all forms of MD will benefit from the AREDS supplements. Additionally, it’s critical to remember that beta carotene should be avoided if you smoke since it may raise your chance of developing lung cancer.
Wet AMD Treatment
Anti-VEGF drugs are medications used to treat wet macular degeneration. They decrease the number of abnormal blood vessels in the eye and diminish blood vessel leakage. The medication is administered to your eye through a thin needle.
In some cases of wet MD, laser surgery can be used as a treatment. The unusual blood vessels will be the focus of the surgeon’s laser treatment. The aim of the treatment will be to decrease the number of abnormal blood vessels and halt the leaking.
Macular Degeneration – Preventive Measures
Having routine eye exams helps identify early signs of macular degeneration. Follow the steps given below to lower your chance of acquiring macular degeneration:
- Medical disorders like high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease must be treated by taking medicine according to the doctor’s recommendations.
- Smokers are more likely to develop macular degeneration. Thus giving up smoking can be highly beneficial.
- Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. Try to consume the optimal amount of calories and increase your daily exercise.
- Select a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. These foods also include antioxidant vitamins which help reduce the chances of developing MD.
- Additionally, since the omega-3 fatty acids in fish are thought to lower the incidence of macular degeneration, it is a good idea to incorporate fish into your meals. Another excellent source is walnuts.
Macular degeneration is a common eye condition affecting millions of people worldwide. Although it may seem terrifying, there are actions you can take to avoid damaging your vision. Keeping up with regular eye exams and incorporating the latest research & advancements in hygiene and nutrition into your lifestyle will go a long way in keeping your eyes healthy and ensuring that Macular Degeneration does not become an issue.
Knowing the risk factors and being aware of any changes in your vision can also help you detect symptoms of Macular Degeneration early on, allowing for proper treatment. Ultimately, by staying informed and taking proactive steps to protect your eyesight, you can continue enjoying the world with a clear vision.
Q. Mention the causes of macular degeneration.
The majority of persons with this condition are over 60. Family history and genetics. This disease has a hereditary component. It has been found that this medical condition is more common among white people. People who smoke regularly are more likely to develop MD. Additionally, cardiovascular disease patients might have to deal with this medical condition.
Q. How is macular degeneration diagnosed?
To diagnose macular degeneration, your healthcare provider may conduct tests such as a Dilated Eye Exam, Amsler Grid Test, Fluorescein Angiography, Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), or Optical Coherence Tomography Angiography (OCTA).
Q. Mention the common symptoms of macular degeneration.
The following are symptoms of macular degeneration:
Blurry or unclear vision.
Difficulty reading small print or driving.
The appearance of dark, blurry areas in the centre of your vision can affect colour perception.
Q. How can macular degeneration be prevented?
Managing medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure is necessary to lower the risk of developing dry macular degeneration. You can do this by adhering to prescribed medication and instructions from healthcare providers. Given that smokers are more vulnerable to macular degeneration, quitting smoking can also be beneficial. Requesting assistance from a healthcare provider can aid in quitting smoking.