About Macular Degeneration
The central portion of the retina is called the macula, and it is the part of the eye that produces our central (as opposed to peripheral) vision. It allows us to see fine details, read, drive, and see colors well, among other important functions. As part of the natural aging process, particularly as we near and pass the age of 60, the macula often starts to degrade. This is called macular degeneration and occurs when the proteins within the retina begin to clump together (dry macular degeneration) or when the blood vessels beneath the retina become weak and begin to bleed or leak (wet macular degeneration).
The dry version typically develops first, and then for some patients, it progresses into the wet type. The wet type is the more serious and accounts for the most loss of vision. Dry and wet macular degeneration cause impaired central vision, but with proper management, patients usually retain enough peripheral vision to lead independent lives with most of their normal daily activities. So far, science has not found a cure for dry or wet macular degeneration. However, patients with wet macular degeneration do have several treatment options that can delay or arrest the condition.
At Solomon Eye Physicians and Surgeons, testing for macular degeneration is included in every comprehensive eye exam. We are trained in the most innovative diagnostic techniques and in helping patients to manage the condition in its earlier stages. If your condition progresses over time, we will refer you to a retina specialist to ensure you receive expert macular degeneration treatment.
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Macular Degeneration Symptoms
While dry and wet macular degeneration are both typically related to aging, they have slightly different symptoms. The dry type is the most common because it develops first; some patients then develop the wet type over time while others don't. Some of the possible symptoms of dry macular degeneration include:
- Blind spots in central vision
- Trouble reading due to dimmed or distorted vision
There aren't currently any treatments for dry macular degeneration, but it has a very gradual progression. Most patients with the dry type will lose some central vision but will retain enough to keep up their daily routines.
Some of the possible symptoms of wet macular degeneration include:
- Distorted or skewed vision, such as straight lines looking bent
- Reduced color vision/reduced intensity of colors
- Blind spots
- Blurred or blind spots in vision that are well-defined
The wet type is not seen as frequently, but it is the more serious of the two. Without proper management, it can quickly lead to significant central vision loss; however, thankfully, there are treatments available to help control its progression.
Macular Degeneration Causes
Dry macular degeneration is the result of the proteins within the macula hardening and clumping together. These tiny clumps can cause blind spots or blurry, distorted vision.
Wet macular degeneration occurs when the blood vessels behind the retina begin to grow abnormally. They may be weakened or swollen and then eventually begin to bleed or leak.
Experts have not been able to pinpoint exactly why either of these conditions develops, but we do know of some factors that seem to be associated with a higher risk. Age, heredity, and smoking are the major associated risk factors. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, and having fair hair and light eyes have also been associated with a higher potential for macular degeneration.
Macular Degeneration Treatment Options
Dry macular degeneration does not have any treatment options at this time. However, there are a variety of low vision aids and therapies designed to help patients continue living independent lives.
Wet macular degeneration can be managed with options, like special anti-VEGF injections, laser surgery, or a vitrectomy. At Solomon Eye Physicians and Surgeons, we work with macular degeneration patients on a regular basis by recommending low vision aids and therapies that can help with each patient's specific vision loss and lifestyle needs. We also offer some treatments for the early stages of wet macular degeneration. However, if your condition is advanced or in the late stages, we will refer you to a retina specialist who can best provide for your specific needs.
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At Solomon Eye Physicians and Surgeons, we know that receiving a diagnosis of macular degeneration might be alarming or even depressing for some patients. We are here to help so schedule a comprehensive exam at our Greenbelt or Bowie office today. We will make sure that you fully understand the diagnosis and that you get the treatment you need so you can rest easier and get back to living your fullest life.