Most people have never heard of the macula, much less macular degeneration. But this disease is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over the age of 60.
Macular degeneration, as the name implies, is the deterioration of the macula, the central portion of the retina. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of the eye. Because macular degeneration develops as a person ages, the condition is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration. It rarely results in a person becoming totally blind, but it can significantly impact the quality of a person’s vision.
Dry and Wet Forms
There are two basic types of macular degeneration.
- Dry form — This is the more common form of macular degeneration. It is characterized by the presence of yellow deposits, called drusen, in the macula. A few small drusen may not impact the person’s vision. But as they grow in size and number they can cause dimming or distortion of vision that people notice when they read. If the dry form advances, the disease can cause thinning of the light-sensitive layer of cells in the macula leading to tissue death. This is called the atrophic form of dry macular degeneration. Patients will develop blind spots in the center of their vision or total loss of central vision.
- Wet form — In the “wet form” of macular degeneration, abnormal blood vessels grow in the choroid underneath the macula. These blood vessels leak blood and fluid into the retina, causing distorted vision (lines become wavy), blind spots, and a loss of central vision. Vision loss occurs when these abnormal blood vessels bleed and eventually form a scar.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
Unfortunately, in its early stages, macular degeneration may not have any symptoms. It often progresses and affects both eyes before a person begins to notice changes. These are symptoms of macular degeneration:
- Blind or flawed area in the center of vision
- Difficult reading without extra light or magnification
- Seeing objects as distorted or blurred, or otherwise abnormal
- The perception that objects “jump” when you try to look directly at them
- Inability to see details
- Difficulty seeing to read or drive
Regular Exams Are the Key
When checking your eyes during your regular eye exams, we can detect the signs of macular degeneration, even if you aren’t noticing any symptoms. Since the presence of drusen is a common early sign, our Central Valley Eye Medical Group doctors can see these easily when examining your eyes. Early detection, as with most things, can dramatically impact the severity of the disease.
Your yearly eye exams aren’t just an exercise — they are intended to head off things like macular degeneration before they become more severe. Call the team at Central Valley Eye Medical Group, (800) 244-9907, to make your exam appointment.