Macular degeneration is an eye disorder that’s characterized by progressive acute and central vision loss. This makes it increasingly difficult to visualize fine details and to read.
This condition is called age-related macular degeneration (AMD) because this pathology is significantly more common people over 50 years of age. Normally, the process occurs slowly over time, but sometimes it advances more quickly.
Currently, several studies are underway to correct macular degeneration associated with age. Additionally, progress has been made in the genetic understanding of the disease. There are also promising studies related to the transplantation of healthy cells to correct the problem.
What is Age-related Macular Degeneration?
Specifically, age-related macular degeneration has to do with a problem with the retina. This tissue is sensitive to light and it’s located at the bottom of the eye. Its function is to convert light and images into electrical impulses that are transmitted to the brain.
The macula is located in the center of the retina. It’s a yellow spot whose function is to capture the finest details of vision. When this condition occurs, the central vision deteriorates, but peripheral vision remains the same.
This disease is more common in those with a tobacco addiction and those who are overweight. Additionally, it’s more common in those suffering from hypertension, high cholesterol levels and diabetes.
Types of Macular Degeneration
There are two types of age-related macular degeneration: wet and dry.
Wet macular degeneration occurs when blood vessels grow abnormally under the retina. Such vessels are fragile and tend to drip blood and fluid. All this causes the macula to rise from its normal position. This damages the macula, and it will be rapidly consumed.
The wet type is the most serious of the macular degenerations. One of the first symptoms is seeing straight lines as if they were wavy.
Dry macular degeneration, on the other hand, is the most common form of this pathology. It occurs when the macula’s cells, which are sensitive to light, start to deteriorate. Vision becomes cloudy and it’s increasingly difficult to maintain central vision.
It develops in three stages:
- Early macular degeneration. First, the person won’t experience any symptoms. However, when examining the retina, the doctor will notice yellow deposits called drusen under the retina.
- Intermediate AMD. Then, the patient will have many drusen or large drusen. They may have blurred vision, or they may require more light in order to read.
- Advanced macular degeneration. Finally, in this stage there are many drusen and there will also be cell and tissue deterioration in the central area of the retina. The patient’s central vision is opaque and blurred. In addition, they will have difficulties reading and recognizing faces.
Experts are still not sure why age-related macular degeneration occurs. Obviously, it has to do with the natural deterioration of the body, related to the passage of time. Beyond that, however, there isn’t much information.
What we do know is that there are risk factors that can precipitate this disease. The main ones are:
- Family history
- Nutritional factors, such as diets rich in fats
- Being white
- Being female
Diagnosis and Prognosis
Generally, age-related macular degeneration is detected through an ophthalmological examination. Typically, the test includes the following tests:
- Visual acuity test. This measures the patient’s vision at different distances.
- Tonometry measures the pressure inside the eyes using a special device.
- Pupil dilation exam. The doctor will put drops in the patient’s eyes to dilate the pupil. The doctor will then examine the retina and optic nerve with a magnifying lens.
- Amsler grid. This grid is similar to a chessboard. The patient will cover one eye and look at a black spot in the middle of the grid. Then, they repeat the exercise with their other eye.
The prognosis for dry macular degeneration is generally positive. Usually, the loss of vision isn’t debilitating. On the other hand, with wet macular degeneration, there is often a sever loss of sight. In this case, the patient won’t be able to carry out activities that require visualization of fine details.
Finally, if you notice some of the symptoms that we have mentioned, you shouldn’t hesitate to see a specialist who will help to treat it in the best way possible.