The macula is the small nerve layer near the center of the retina where images form. Although only the size of a pinhead, the macula is responsible for producing the clearest, most acute vision along with controlling most of our central field of vision. If the macula is damaged, central vision is lost but peripheral vision remains intact.
What Is Macular Degeneration And What Causes It?
Macular degeneration is a slowly progressive disease that causes reduction in central vision. In its early stages, the disease may have a minimal or unnoticeable effect on the vision. As it progresses, however, fine details become more difficult to see, especially when reading. Vision may begin to appear distorted, or parts of objects may appear to be missing. Macular degeneration is classified by two stages – dry and wet. In the dry stage, a scar develops slowly over the macula resulting in decreased vision. In the wet stage, blood vessels grow under the retina and begin to leak, eventually causing a large scar and severe loss of visual. The leakage is not connected to watery eyes at all. No pain is associated with macular degeneration, and the exact cause of the disease is unknown. A person’s heredity, age, environment, and general health may all be factors. Recent studies indicate that ultraviolet radiation exposure, as well as certain deficiencies in vitamins and trace minerals, may affect macular degeneration. Smoking has been linked to wet macular degeneration, which is the more severe form of the disease.
Can Macular Degeneration Be Treated Or Cured?
Currently, there is no cure for macular degeneration. However, there are treatment options and many good ways to live with and even reduce the risk of vision loss. Recent advancements in treatment of macular degeneration involve intravitreal injections of specialized medications into the eye to slow or halt the progression of the disease. This new retina treatment technology can save many patients’ vision, whereas previously they did not have these options.
Many macular degeneration patients improve their vision by increasing the light and contrast in their surroundings, which can be accomplished with high energy light bulbs and amber or yellow tinted sunglasses. Sunglasses can also help decrease ultraviolet radiation. Certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, E, C, and zinc, have been used to slow the progression of macular degeneration. Surgery has become a more frequently used option. Research is also being conducted in the transplant of retinal tissue. Early detection of macular degeneration by self-monitoring with an Amsler grid and stopping smoking are the two most proven ways to decrease your risk of vision loss. An Amsler grid is a small chart with numerous straight lines that form a grid to help detect early changes in vision by the presence of distortion.
Does Macular Degeneration Cause Blindness?
Even in the most advanced cases, macular degeneration does not lead to blindness, but the central area of vision may be significantly decreased. Peripheral (or side) vision remains intact. In these cases, a specialist in the field of low vision can often help make maximum use of the remaining vision. The progression of macular degeneration as well as individual responses to treatment options are highly variable. Multiple laser treatments might be necessary.
People Over The Age Of 50 Should See An Eye Care Professional Every Year.
Schedule your appointment today by calling (865) 584-0905. Our board-certified Optometrists and Ophthalmologists at EyeCare Optical are standing by ready to offer personal care and state-of-the-art technology.