The macula is the central part of the retina. It is responsible for detailed, sharp vision. In Macular Degeneration, an age-related disorder that is the major cause of visual impairment in people over sixty, this part of the retina begins to deteriorate. The peripheral vision is not affected, and Macular Degeneration does not cause total blindness.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
For most people, there are usually few or no symptoms of Macular Degeneration in the early stages. Symptoms can include:
- Blind spot in vision, particularly in the center of vision field
- Blurred or distorted vision
- Seeing abnormal shape, size and color of objects
- Difficulty reading or seeing to driving
- Feeling that objects move away when focus is placed directly on them
Types of Macular Degeneration
Dry or atrophic Macular Degeneration is the most common form of Macular Degeneration, accounting for about 90% of cases. The pigment layer underlying the retina becomes thinner. Most cases are mild and cause only slightly blurred vision. Stronger glasses can help in reading fine print.
Wet or exudative Macular Degeneration occurs in about 10% of cases. New abnormal blood vessels form beneath the retina. These blood vessels can leak fluid and blood, resulting in scar tissue formation and severe loss of central vision. Often only one eye at a time is involved.
Macular Degeneration Diagnosis
These abnormalities in the retina can be detected by an eye doctor examining the eye with an ophthalmoscope. Sometimes the patient will be given an Amsler grid – a test page which looks like graph paper – to check at home daily. Any change, distortion or missing squares should be reported to the eye doctor. Fluorescein angiography can sometimes provide useful information. In this test, a dye is injected into a vein in the arm and many photographs of the retina are taken to detect abnormal blood vessels and other changes.
Macular Degeneration Treatment
There is no specific treatment for the more common form, atrophic Macular Degeneration. Stronger reading glasses may help. Multivitamins with zinc and lutein can perhaps slow the progression. The less common form, exudative Macular Degeneration, can sometimes be treated with the laser. The laser produces an intense beam of light, which is used to destroy abnormal new blood vessels in order to prevent further bleeding and scarring. The location of the new blood vessels and the amount of leakage or bleeding determine whether the treatment will help. Laser treatment must be done in the very early stages, which is why Amsler grid testing by the patient at home is so important.
Macular Degeneration does not result in total blindness. Side vision is not affected, only central vision. Special low vision aids, such as magnifiers and telescopes, can help a patient to make the most of the remaining vision. Special lamps and large-print publications can also be helpful.
The ophthalmologists at Fraser Eye Care Center and the Eye Care Center of Port Huron care about their patients, and will thoroughly review all options and treatments available for individuals with Macular Degeneration.