What is Macular Degeneration and How to Deal With It?

What is Macular Degeneration and How to Deal With It?


If you are searching the term "Macular Degeneration," you’ve probably encountered this disease or suspect you might have it. In this blog post, we will explain everything you need to know about macular degeneration, its types, symptoms, causes, and ways to manage it.


Understanding Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration, often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD or ARMD), is currently considered incurable and is the leading cause of vision loss worldwide. According to Macular.org, in 2015, approximately 6.2 million people were affected by this condition.

What Happens When You Have Macular Degeneration?

Macular Degeneration affects the macula, the small central portion of the retina responsible for detailed central vision. The retina is the inner layer of the eye that records the images we see and sends them via the optic nerve to the brain.

The macula’s role in focusing central vision is crucial for tasks like reading, driving, and recognizing faces. When the macula deteriorates, it leads to central vision loss, making these activities difficult or impossible.


Types of Macular Degeneration

There are two main types of macular degeneration: dry (atrophic) and wet (exudative).

Dry (Atrophic) Macular Degeneration

The dry form is the most common, affecting 85% to 90% of those with macular degeneration. It involves the presence of drusen, yellow deposits in the macula. Small drusen typically do not cause significant vision problems, but larger ones can interfere with vision by thinning and eventually killing the light-sensitive cells in the macula. This can result in blind spots and loss of central vision. The progression of dry AMD is usually slow, giving patients more time to adapt to their vision changes.

Wet (Exudative) Macular Degeneration

This less common form, affecting 10% to 15% of people with macular degeneration, involves abnormal blood vessel growth under the macula. These vessels can leak blood and other fluids, leading to distorted vision and blind spots. Over time, the bleeding forms scars that cause permanent central vision loss. Wet AMD progresses more rapidly than dry AMD and can lead to severe vision loss in a relatively short period.


Recognizing Macular Degeneration

Early detection of macular degeneration can be challenging because it does not cause pain or affect the appearance of the eyes. However, as the disease progresses, it can cause significant vision impairment.

Symptoms of Macular Degeneration

  • Difficulty reading, watching TV, or driving
  • Straight lines appearing wavy or crooked
  • Objects appearing smaller than usual
  • Colors appearing less bright
  • Experiencing hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t there)

Stages of Macular Degeneration

Stage 1: Early

In the early stage, AMD often goes unnoticed due to the lack of vision loss. Diagnosis is typically made when medium-sized drusen are detected in the retina during an eye exam.

Stage 2: Intermediate

Some individuals may start experiencing mild vision loss at this stage. Diagnosis is based on the presence of large drusen and/or changes in retinal pigmentation. Regular eye exams become crucial at this stage to monitor the disease's progression and implement management strategies.

Stage 3: Late

Significant vision loss occurs in the late stage, severely impacting daily activities. At this point, AMD can be classified into dry or wet forms. In the late stage, the disease has already caused substantial damage to the macula, leading to severe central vision loss.

Causes of Macular Degeneration

The exact cause of AMD is not well understood, but it is believed to result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Risk factors include:

  • Age: People over 60 are at higher risk.
  • Race: Caucasians are more susceptible.
  • Genetics: Family history increases risk.
  • Smoking: Significantly increases risk.
  • Obesity: Increases the likelihood of progression to late-stage AMD.
  • Cardiovascular Diseases: Higher risk for individuals with heart and blood vessel conditions.

Preventing and Managing Macular Degeneration

While there is currently no cure for macular degeneration, lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk and slow disease progression:

  • Healthy Diet: Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts rich in antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, a diet high in these nutrients can help reduce the risk of AMD.
  • Maintain Healthy Weight: Avoid obesity to lower risk.
  • Protect Eyes from UV Light: Wear sunglasses to block harmful rays.
  • Regular Exercise: Helps maintain overall eye health.

Current Research and Treatments For Macular Degeneration

Although AMD is considered incurable, research is ongoing to find better treatments and potentially a cure. Current treatments for wet AMD include anti-VEGF injections, which help reduce abnormal blood vessel growth and slow vision loss. These injections, such as those provided by drugs like Lucentis and Eylea, have been shown to be effective in preserving vision. For dry AMD, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) has shown that specific high-dose vitamins and minerals can reduce the risk of progression to advanced AMD. The AREDS2 formula includes vitamins C and E, zinc, copper, and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.


We hope this blog post has provided you with valuable information about macular degeneration. Regular eye exams are crucial for early detection and management of eye conditions. Even if you do not experience symptoms, routine check-ups can help prevent or slow down the progression of diseases like macular degeneration. Remember, if you experience any changes in your vision or eye discomfort, consult an eye care professional promptly. Early intervention can make a significant difference in managing macular degeneration and preserving your vision. Now read the next blog to know more about blind awareness and don't forget to share your thoughts on the comments below!

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