Blurry spots in your vision that occur as you grow older may be attributed to a condition called age-related macular degeneration. Since this condition can grow slowly or quickly, at Colorado Ophthalmology Associates, we check your eyes for macular degeneration at every eye exam. While it usually doesn’t cause total blindness, the blurry spots can cause significant interference with vision and impede your lifestyle. That’s why early detection is crucial.
What is Macular Degeneration?
More than 10 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with macular degeneration. It is the leading cause of vision loss.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the deterioration of the macula layer of the retina. There are two kinds: dry and wet. All AMD begins as dry and some deteriorate into wet, which is the more serious kind. Most people with AMD have the dry kind.
Dry macular degeneration is the thinning of the macula and may affect only one eye. A buildup of tiny yellow protein under the macula causes it to dry out and thin.
Wet macular degeneration occurs in late stage dry AMD. Fewer people suffer from wet AMD, but it is a more serious condition. Blood vessels develop under the macula and can cause pressure with fluid buildup. Much of the central vision can be lost.
What Causes Macular Degeneration?
Several of the risk factors for macular degeneration are inherited. However, some of the causes are preventable.
Your risk for AMD may increase from:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Family history of AMD
- Gender – women may be at higher risk
- Race – whites are at higher risk
- Sunlight exposure
- Late stage AMD in one eye increases risk for the other eye
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
Early detection is key in slowing cases of AMD. However, early stage dry macular degeneration is not noticeable by the patient. Your ophthalmologist can check for it during dilated eye exams. Symptoms include:
- Blurriness in central vision
- Trouble seeing in dim light
- Blank spots in vision
- Wavy lines that should be straight
Treatment for Macular Degeneration
While there is no cure for macular degeneration, your ophthalmologist will keep close watch over early stage dry AMD. Meanwhile, it is important to take steps to improve your health and to slow your AMD condition.
Begin by eating a healthy diet complete with plenty of dark, leafy greens and fatty fish. Regular exercise and weight loss will also help slow AMD. Your ophthalmologist may recommend supplements of vitamins and minerals. Additionally, wear UV-rated sunglasses outdoors to lessen exposure to harmful rays.
See your primary care physician regularly. Smoking cessation is very important and your doctor will be able to assist you with that. Keeping your hypertension under control is also important.
In late stage wet AMD, your ophthalmologist may utilize options like eye injections called anti-VEGF drugs, photodynamic therapy (PDT) injections, or laser treatments. Research continues into developing treatments for macular degeneration.
Make an appointment today
If it has been over three years since you’ve had your eyes checked for macular degeneration (a dilated eye exam), call us today for an appointment and come to one of our two Colorado locations for a complete exam. Our board-certified ophthalmologists are here to help you protect your vision as your body ages.