Macular Degenration Treatment

Macular degeneration causes a progressive blurring of central vision, even as peripheral vision remains. Laser surgery can prevent blindness in some cases.

What is macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration is a common eye condition associated with aging in about 30% of the population. Macular degeneration destroys the sharpness of an individual's central vision by damaging the macula, a small area in the middle of the retina that is responsible for the clarity of central vision. The result is a blurring of central vision, even as peripheral vision remains normal. Macular degeneration is particularly distressing because central vision is so important in such tasks as reading, writing, recognizing faces, or any other activity that requires the ability to perceive detail. The condition usually develops gradually, but in some cases it progresses quite rapidly. Both eyes will be affected, though the condition does not usually progress at the same rate in both eyes.

There are two types of macular degeneration"""dry" and "wet." The dry type cause 70-90% of cases, but the wet type, which causes only 10-30% of cases, is responsible for as much as 90% of all blindness attributed to the disease.

Wet macular degeneration can develop out of the dry condition. As dry macular degeneration worsens, new blood vessels may grow on the retina. These new blood vessels are fragile, and the may rupture and leak blood and fluid under the macula, causing scar tissue. The damage to the macula may be rapid enough to cause sudden loss of central vision, as opposed to the gradual blurring typical of the dry form of the disease.

What are the symptoms of macular degeneration?

A sudden change of vision in anyone over age 65 is cause for suspecting macular degeneration. However, for most people, the main symptom is a gradual progressive blurring in the center of the field of vision. Some individuals also notice a distortion of straight lines and a diminishing of color perception. There is no pain as the condition develops.

How is macular degeneration diagnosed?

During a regular yearly eye exam, the doctor will check for signs of macular degeneration. A patient who notices a blurring of central vision, a distortion of straight lines, or a diminishing of color perception should see the ophthalmologist immediately, even if it is not yet time for his yearly exam.

Is there a cure for macular degeneration?

There is no cure for macular degeneration, and no treatment for the dry type. However, many cases of the wet type, which produces the more serious loss of vision, can be treated with laser surgery if it is detected early, before central vision is destroyed""which is a good reason to go for a yearly eye exam.

Those who are most susceptible to macular degeneration should protect their eyes from bright sunlight, avoid exposing their eyes to cigarette smoke, and take steps to avoid or control hypertension, as all of these have been shown to hasten the onset and progress of the disease. Since there is no way to know how susceptible one is to this condition, of course, these recommendations apply to everyone, whether they have already developed the condition or not.

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