Macular Degeneration 101
Otherwise referred to as age-related macular degeneration. AMD is the leading cause of permanent and severe vision loss in individuals older than 50. This incurable eye disease is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of your retina, which is the inside back layer of your eye. The retina is tasked with recording all the images you see and then sending them from the eye to the brain via the optic nerve.
The central part of the retina is tasked with focusing central vision in the eye, and it is responsible for enabling you to read, recognize colors, and see objects. This portion of the retina is known as the macula.
The macula is basically the most sensitive area of the eye, since it collects images in high detail and then sends them to the brain via the optic nerve. The brain then interprets these signals as sight.
So, when the cells of the macula get damaged and start to deteriorate, it negatively effects the way your vision. This doesn’t happen in its early stages, but as the disease progresses, people start experiencing blurred vision.
In the later stages of the macular degeneration, people can experience complete loss of central vision. In fact, people who suffer from advanced macular degeneration are recognized as legally blind.
Even when people suffer from extreme cases of macular degeneration, they still have their peripheral vision, since the rest of their retina is still functioning properly. However, their peripheral vision is simply not as clear as their central vision.
There are two main types of macular degeneration – dry and wet. In most cases (85-90%), people suffer from dry macular degeneration, while the remainder suffers from the ‘wet’ type of this disease. There is also a third type of macular degeneration that doesn’t affect older people. Young people can suffer from a form of macular degeneration that is called Stargardt disease, which is caused recessive gene.
The dry form of AMD is characterized by the presence of yellow deposits in the macula. These yellow deposits are referred to as drusen. As the disease progresses, the size of these yellow deposits grows and their presence increases. This is what leads to a distortion of vision.
Three Stages Of Macular Degeneration
There are three main stages of age-related macular degeneration – early, intermediate, and late AMD.
- During the early stage of AMD, most people won’t notice any vision loss. This is exactly why regular eye exams are important. If you’re in the early stage of AMD, your doctor will instantly notice it, since there will be yellow deposits beneath the retina.
- During the intermediate stage of AMD, some people notice vision loss. However, others still may not suffer from any noticeable symptoms during this stage of the disease. Patients in the intermediate stage of age-related macular degeneration have pigment changes in the retina.
- The late stage of AMD is when vision loss really becomes noticeable. The vision loss gets worse over time and in the end, patients suffer permanent vision loss that can’t be treated by surgery or eye injections.
If you’re worried about suffering from this disease, then you can help prevent it by starting to live healthier. In order to lower the risk of macular degeneration, you should:
- Quit smoking.
- Eat more vegetables, especially dark leafy greens.
- Start wearing sunglasses outdoors more regularly.
- Take eye exams regularly.
- Make sure to keep your cholesterol and blood pressure under control.
- Eat more fresh produce.
- Make sure you maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly.
- Eat more fish, or at least take a fish oil supplement.