Macular Degeneration - Seidenberg Protzko Eye Associates

Macular Degeneration

Diagnosis, types, and treatments

Macular degeneration is an eye disorder that makes it difficult to see fine details.

 

The condition affects the macula, the part of the retina responsible for central vision. Scientists aren’t sure what causes macular degeneration. The disease is most common in people over 60, which is why it is often referred to as ‘age-related macular degeneration.’

Macular degeneration can seriously impair central vision, so it’s important to report any changes in your vision to your Seidenberg Protzko eye doctor.

Two types of macular degeneration

Dry macular degeneration occurs when the macula becomes thin and dries out. Small yellow deposits, called drusen, form under the macula. As these drusen increase in size and number, they create a blurred spot in the central vision of the eye. Almost all people with macular degeneration have the dry form.

Wet macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula and retina (this is called choroidal neovascularization).  These vessels can leak blood and fluid, damaging the macula. Vision loss in the central vision can occur very quickly. Only about 10 percent of people with macular degeneration have this form, but it causes most of the vision loss associated with the condition.

Symptoms of macular degeneration

  • There are often few symptoms in the beginning stages of macular degeneration.
  • As the disease progresses, your central vision can be affected.
  • The most common symptom of dry macular degeneration is blurred vision.
  • As the disease progresses, you may need more light to read or do everyday tasks.
  • The blurred spot in the center of the field of vision gradually gets larger and darker.
  • In later stages, you may not be able to recognize faces until people are close to you.
  • The most common early symptom of wet macular degeneration is that straight lines appear distorted and wavy.
  • You may notice a small dark spot in the center of your vision that gradually gets larger.

Treatments for wet macular degeneration

  • Laser surgery (laser photocoagulation). A small beam of light destroys the abnormal blood vessels.
  • Photodynamic therapy. A light activates a drug that’s injected into your body to destroy leaking blood vessels.
  • Special medications that slow the formation of new blood vessels in the eye (anti-angiogenesis (anti-VEGF) therapy). Drugs such as bevacizumab (Avastin) and ranibizumab (Lucentis) are injected into the eye to stabilize or improve vision.
  • Low-vision aids (such as special lenses) and therapy can help improve your vision and quality of life.

More about macular degeneration

The macula is an oval shaped spot near the retina, which regulates the input of light, and acts as natural sunglasses. It is directly related to central vision as opposed to peripheral vision. Macular degeneration is a condition in which the retina becomes damaged and disconnected, and vision is lost in the macula. It is a prominent cause of visual impairment in people over 50. Ordinarily it does not stop vision altogether, however, it does create difficulty discerning faces or reading.

Laser surgery can treat the condition, and medication can be taken for wet macular degeneration, which can stop, and even reverse the growth of the blood vessels.

If it is not treated early enough, the damage is permanent.

One of the simplest ways to test the health of the macula is a grid test. When looking at a black spot in the center of the grid, the lines of the grid should appear straight and evenly spaced with no blank areas. Any variation from this could be a sign of an unhealthy macular. An eye exam includes a grid test.

While macular degeneration cannot be responsible for total blindness, it does directly influence central vision which is extremely important for daily life. For this reason, early detection is extremely important.