Eye Health

An overview of macular degeneration

Common in elderly individuals (people above 60), macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of vision loss. In its early stages, the condition might not project any symptoms. However, as it progresses, patients might experience symptoms such as a blurry vision that causes difficulty to read or drive, blurry or dark areas in the center of the vision, and decreased or altered color perception.

Macular degeneration is typically diagnosed via routine eye exams. An early sign of macular degeneration is drusen, small yellow deposits found under the retina. If the ophthalmologist observes this symptom, they will ask the patient to look at the Amsler grid, a checkboard-like structure. People with macular degeneration might be unable to see the lines or see wavy lines on the Amsler grid instead.

If the doctor suspects macular degeneration, they will order for angiography or OCT (optical coherence tomography). In angiography, a dye is injected into the arm. As soon as the dye flows to the retina’s blood vessels, the diagnostician will take its pictures. The photographs will help the ophthalmologist pinpoint the precise location and type of the new vessels or vessels oozing blood or fluid in the macula. OCT also captures the pictures of the area beneath the retina; however, it does so without using a dye.

Getting macular degeneration detected in the early stages is critical as it can help the ophthalmologist implement the most effective treatment options that can at least delay or decrease the severity of the condition.

Treating macular degeneration
Unfortunately, there is no cure for macular degeneration; however, it can be treated effectively, helping one significantly impede the condition’s progression. Here are some treatment options that are commonly used to manage macular degeneration.

  • Anti-angiogenesis medicines
    These type of medications prevent the production of new blood vessels and abnormal vessels that leak in the eye. The use of anti-angiogenesis has been pathbreaking in ophthalmology as it helped a considerable number of patients regain their lost vision. However, to sustain the effectiveness of the treatment, it might have to be repeated.
  • Laser therapy
    In this treatment, a high energy laser light is used to wipe out abnormal blood vessels that are actively growing, causing macular degeneration.
  • Photodynamic laser therapy
    This is a two-step treatment in which a light-sensitive drug is used to destroy the abnormal blood vessels. The ophthalmologist will administer this light-sensitive drug into the blood so that it can be absorbed by the damaging blood vessels in the eye. The ophthalmologist will then use a cold laser to stimulate the light-sensitive drug so that it can eliminate the abnormal blood vessels.
  • Low-vision aids
    Patients who are suffering from partial vision loss will have to use low-vision aids. These are special lenses or devices that render amplified images of nearby objects.

Preventing macular degeneration
While there is no foolproof solution for keeping this condition at bay, one should adopt healthy lifestyle practices to lower its risk. These include the following:

  • An anti-inflammatory diet rich in vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids
  • Maintaining the right weight and blood pressure
  • Abstinence from smoking

Similarly, one should also get routine eye exams, especially if macular degeneration runs in the family.

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