Macular degeneration affects the portion of the retina that is responsible for our fine, close up vision and color perception. It usually affects both eyes but often begins in one eye. Many people develop age related macular degeneration as part of the body’s natural aging process.
Often people are unaware that they are having problems until the second eye has symptoms because the other eye compensates for the weak one. Macular Degeneration does not lead to total blindness but affects only the central vision. Your ability to read, see fine detail and drive can be affected. Macular degeneration does not affect the eyes side vision, or peripheral vision. For example, you can see the outline of a clock but not be able to tell what time it is.
The two most common types of age-related macular degeneration are “dry” (atrophic or non-exudative) and “wet” (exudative). Most affected people have dry macular degeneration. It is caused by aging and thinning of the tissues of the macula. Vision loss is usually gradual.
Wet macular degeneration accounts for about 10% of all cases. It results when abnormal blood vessels form at the back of the eye. These new blood vessels leak fluid or blood and blur central vision. Vision loss may be rapid and severe.
Your eye doctor can detect early stages of macular degeneration during a medical eye examination that includes the following: viewing the macula with an ophthalmoscope, a simple vision test in which you look at a grid resembling graph paper (Amsler grid), and sometimes special photographs called fluorescein angiograms using dye to find abnormal blood vessels.
There is no cure yet for “dry” macular degeneration. A national study did show a benefit, to some people, in slowing the progression of macular degeneration by giving them a nutritional supplement containing lutein, zeaxanthin, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E. Wet macular degeneration can sometimes be treated with laser surgery and/or special medications.
Macular degeneration alone does not result in total blindness. People continue to have some useful vision and are usually able to take care of themselves. Special optical devices or low vision aides can often help these people maintain a satisfying lifestyle.
You can check your vision daily by printing the Amsler grid