Macular degeneration is a condition where the macula is affected, which is part of the retina concerned with central vision. As the name suggests, there is deterioration to this part of the retina, and the vision gets impaired or the person becomes legally blind. Also called AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration), this condition is the main cause of blindness in the country, in people over 55 years.
Types of Macular Degeneration
There are two types, Dry, and Wet macular degeneration. In the dry type, cells in the macula gradually break down causing central vision to blur gradually. In the wet type, there is abnormal growth of new blood vessels below the retina's center. These blood vessels leak and scar the retina, which results in destruction or distortion of central vision.
Dry macular degeneration is quite common and accounts for 90% of the cases. Even though the wet type is reported in only 10% of cases, it causes legal blindness in 90% of people. It is considered an advanced form of macular degeneration, and is always preceded by the dry type. However, it is possible for the dry type to advance without turning to the wet form, and cause vision loss. It is also possible, for early dry type of macular degeneration to transform suddenly into the wet type of the disease.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
AMD symptoms include –
- Scotomas or blind spots
- Decreased or blurred central vision, up close and for distance
- Objects start to appear of different shape or color to each eye, or straight lines appear bent or irregular
- Size of objects may seem different to each eye
Tests for Macular Degeneration
People over the age of 45 are advised to undergo complete eye examination every two years. If you notice any of the above symptoms, the ophthalmologist will examine the retina, and do initial tests for measuring the acuity or sharpness of your vision. While examining your retina, the ophthalmologist will look for –
- Yellow or white spots in the macular area, which indicates dry type of AMD
- Degeneration or thinning of the pigment layer, the intermediate layer in the eyeball, and the retina
- Formation of new blood vessels, leaking of fluid, or scarring below the retina, which is the main indications of wet type of macular degeneration
Some of the tests done for macular degeneration include FA (Fluorescein Angiography), ICG (Indocyanine Green Angiography), and OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography). Another popular test for diagnosing macular issues and worsening condition of AMD is the Amsler grid test.
Treatment for Macular Degeneration
For arresting complications and altering the natural progression of macular degeneration, high doses of zinc and antioxidants in dietary supplements are highly recommended. All patients suffering from macular degeneration should immediately stop smoking to slow down or stop the progression of the disease.
Patients who are suffering from irreversible or advanced AMD could benefit from certain vision aids such as magnifiers for reading, and specially designed glasses with telescopes for seeing into distance.
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