Macular Degeneration: Symptoms and Causes

What is macular degeneration?

If you’re over 50, it’s more than likely you’ve heard your friends, family, or doctors talk about macular degeneration. And if you’re younger, and maintaining annual eye health exams, you’ve probably already been tested at least once. But what is macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration, or Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD)---is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over age 50. As many as 11 million people in the United States have some form of age-related macular degeneration. This number is expected to double to nearly 22 million by 2050.

While those numbers can be alarming, scheduling annual optometrists appointments, along with being informed about prevention and symptoms, can help protect your vision from deteriorating.

Symptoms and Causes of Macular Degeneration

To understand what macular degeneration is, it’s best to first understand what the macula is and how it helps you see. The macula is a part of the retina at the back of the eye. Despite being only 5mm across, it’s responsible for our central vision, most color vision, and the fine detail in what you see.

Macular degeneration occurs when there are changes to the macula, which results in the development of key symptoms of ARMD. Symptoms of macular degeneration include:

  • Difficulty seeing people’s faces
  • Difficulty reading on your digital devices
  • Shadowy areas in your central vision
  • Unusually fuzzy or distorted vision

Macular Degeneration comes in two forms: “wet” and the more common “dry.” While there is no cure for dry degeneration—and the lost vision cannot be restored—researchers and doctors believe that there is a link between nutrition and the progression of macular degeneration. Making dietary changes and taking nutritional supplements can slow vision loss. A diet full of antioxidants—like kale, spinach, broccoli and squash, along with frequent exercise can help reduce your risk of macular degeneration.

Wet macular degeneration is when new blood vessels grow beneath the retina and leak blood and fluid. This leakage causes permanent damage to light-sensitive retinal cells, which die off and create blind spots in central vision. However, wet macular degeneration is less common and treatable if it’s caught early on. Our retinal image examination can determine the degree of the progression and help determine your best treatment plan.

Visit the MyEyeDr. ‘Not Just Carrots’  video series that features many eye healthy recipes to help you incorporate the nutrients you need to protect your vision and reduce the risk of macular degeneration and other eye diseases.

If you’re experiencing any vision loss, schedule an appointment with your local MyEyeDr. practice. To see one of our expert optometrists, schedule an appointment using our online scheduler or by calling your local MyEyeDr. office.