Macular degeneration (MD) (or Age-related Macular Degeneration, ARMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the world. It refers to the breakdown of the macula, a very sensitive portion of the retina. The macula is responsible for producing the most critical aspects of vision, and destruction of the macula causes a decrease or loss of central vision.
- Decreased vision
- Distorted vision
- Loss of central vision
- Difficulty reading, watching TV, or seeing road signs
There are two forms of MD:
- Atrophic or dry MD, results from a gradual breakdown and degeneration of critical photoreceptors in the eye that provide night vision and visual acuity.
- Exudative or wet MD, is caused by leaks in the blood vessels of the retina. The bleeding causes scarring and retinal tissue death.
About 80 to 85% of those with MD have the atrophic form; but most cases of severe vision loss can be attributed to the exudative form. About 10% of those with dry MD will also develop the wet form.
Treatment options for MD include:
- Anti-VEGF Injections
- Laser Photocoagulation
- Photodynamic Therapy
- Vitamin Supplements
The specific causes of MD have not been identified, but theories suggest that anything that interferes with the high rate blood flow in the macula can cause it to malfunction.
The following dietary or lifestyle choices may cause damage leading to MD:
- Smoking – This decreases blood supply by causing a narrowing of the blood vessels and a thickening of the blood.
- High saturated-fat diets can cause plaque buildup along blood vessel walls, including the macular vessels, which impedes blood flow.
- A lack of antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E and lutein may increase the ability of plaque to stick to the blood vessel walls and promote the damage of the tissue.
With macular degeneration there is usually vision loss in both eyes. The initial symptom may be a distortion of vision in one eye, causing straight lines to appear wavy. Eventually, loss of central vision worsens, making it difficult to see at long distances, read up close, see faces clearly or distinguish colors. Peripheral vision (what you see out of the corners of your eyes) is not affected.
Call Alabama Eye Physicians & Surgeons to schedule an appointment if you experience sudden changes in central vision, including distortion or loss of vision.