Macular degeneration is a very dangerous and all-too-common eye condition that robs a person of their central and detail vision by destroying the small part of the retina, called the macula, that is responsible for this type of vision. Consequently, detail work such as threading a needle or activities such as reading a book, become very difficult or even impossible. Dr. Pamela Schmitz of Dr. Schmitz & Dr. Sujo, Associates in Optometry, in Whitby, ON adds, “Macular degeneration can sometimes be a heart-wrenching ordeal, as the blank or blurry spot in the center of a person's field of vision often blots out faces, making it hard even to recognize close friends and loved ones. Macular degeneration usually comes on very slowly and is easily overlooked without routine eye exams, causing a significant loss of sight before detection. Especially for those over the age of 40 and/or with a family history of the disease, these routine eye exams are indispensable as a means of early detection and treatment, ensuring long term eye and vision health.”
Two types of macular degeneration exist, dry and wet:
- Dry Macular Degenerationis a much more common condition than it's wet alternative. Symptoms include blurry distance and/or reading vision, colors seeming much less vivid and difficulty seeing in dim lighting. Macular degeneration that affects only one eye is often more difficult to detect without an eye exam. This results from your good eye making up for the short-comings of the vision in the bad eye. In this case, eye exams become even more important to detect and monitor the progress of this single-eye macular degeneration. Ocular vitamins and lifestyle modicfications are recommended if there are risk factors, to slow down the progression of the degeneration.
- Wet Macular Degenerationis much more rare, and considered considerably more dangerous. This is because wet macular degeneration displays a tendency to worsen drastically over an alarmingly short amount of time. Symptoms of this form of macular degeneration are similar to the dry form, but as it advances, straight lines can quickly become more bent or crooked. Consequently, your doctor may ask you to monitor your vision with a simple 'do at home test' called an “Amsler Grid” to detect progression in the macula from the dry to wet form. Fortunately, wet macular degeneration when detected in a timely fashion, can now be treated with injections in the eye such as Lucentis( http://www.lucentis.com/get-support) successfully maintaining vision.
- There are some factors you cannot change and some factors that you can change to reduce your risk of macular degeneration.
- Factors you cannot change are age, gender (female>male), race (more common in Caucasians), eye colour (blue>brown), and genetics (family history increases your risk).
- Factors that can be changed include smoking, diet, exercise, controlling cholesterol and high blood pressure and wearing sun, UV, and blue light protection.
Best visual outcomes for sight begin with identifying and managing risk factors for macular degeneration starting in the 40's. The management is customized to each individual so it is important to see your optometrist regularly and discuss preventative measures that are best for you.