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Macular Degeneration Causes and Symptoms: Can it Be Treated?

Macular Degeneration Causes and Symptoms: Can it Be Treated?

The macula is the part of the eye responsible for our central vision and most of our color vision. It is also responsible for the fine details that we see and helps us see far away. Macular degeneration is caused by the deterioration of the macula, causing blurred vision that ultimately results in severe vision impairment. Learn more about macular degeneration causes and symptoms and how it is addressed

According to the centers for disease control, age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss for people over the age of 50.

Macular degeneration happens slowly and there are no symptoms in its early stages. As macular degeneration progresses, the center of our vision starts to get blurry. Over time, this blurry area starts to spread and get bigger. Patients would often complain that they see blank spots and lines starting to look wavy.

Types of Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is categorized depending on its different causes

AMD

Age-related macular disease (AMD), the most common type of macular degeneration, happens to people over the age of 50. Smokers, Caucasians, and people with a family history of AMD have a higher risk of developing this disease. AMD can either be wet or dry.

Dry AMD

Dry AMD is the slow degeneration of the macula as the retinal cells die off and are not renewed. This typically happens gradually over many years.

Wet AMD

Wet AMD is when abnormal blood vessels develop and grow into the macula, causing leakage of blood and fluid. This leaking results in scarring and a rapid loss of central vision. Wet AMD develops suddenly, but if detected early, it can also be treated quickly.

Stargardt disease

Stargardt disease, also known as juvenile macular degeneration, is a hereditary disorder. It typically causes vision impairment during childhood and adolescence but it can also develop later in adulthood.

Myopic Macular degeneration commonly occurs in people with severe nearsightedness. It is thought that severe nearsightedness is caused by abnormal progressive stretching and elongation of the eyeball. This stretching causes a thinning of the layers at the back of the eye which ultimately results in the degeneration of the macula.

macular degeneration causes and symptoms

Macular Degeneration Causes and Symptoms

Macular degeneration causes and symptoms are not definitive and greatly depend on what kind of disease you have. Stargardt disease is hereditary, while the causes of AMD include both environmental and genetic factors.

If anyone in your family has a history of any type of macular degeneration, the likelihood of developing the disease is also high.

Risk factors related to age-related macular degeneration include smoking, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. It also observed that macular degeneration is more prevalent amongst Caucasians.

Pursuing life changes such as eating a balanced diet, exercising, quitting smoking, and protecting the eyes from ultraviolet light can slow the progression of macular degeneration.

Symptoms of Macular Degeneration

During the early stage of macular degeneration, people do not experience vision defects which is why regular eye examination is important.

As macular degeneration progresses into its intermediate and late stages, patients will start experiencing the following:

  • A gradual loss of vision, particularly in the central field.
  • There will be noticeable gray, black, or hazy spots in your vision. It also takes longer than usual for the eyes to adjust from light to dark environments.
  • Straight lines may appear distorted or bent and words might disappear when reading.
  • Bright light will also appear glaring and uncomfortable.
  • Objects in front of you appear to change in color, shape, and size.

Macular degeneration eventually results in severe vision impairment and loss of central vision.

Is Macular Degeneration Treatable?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for macular degeneration and its effects are often irreversible. If detected early, your doctor can prescribe treatment to prevent severe vision loss. Treatment and medication can also significantly slow the progression of macular degeneration.

An optometrist can also prescribe special glasses and optical appliances to aid in any vision impairment caused by macular degeneration.

Specific Treatments

Macular degeneration is incurable but its effects can be slowed down and corrected.

For wet AMD, a medicine can be injected into the middle of the cavity of the eye to block the development of new blood vessels and leakage.

Some studies have also shown that dietary supplements can slow the progression of AMD and some medications can stop the development of blood vessels related to wet AMD.

Optical devices, low vision aids, and rehabilitation can also lessen vision impairment in patient.

Living with Macular Degeneration

Children diagnosed with Stargardt disease are heavily advised to wear dark glasses and hats out and bright light. Low vision devices and therapy can also help them carry out daily tasks.

Stargardt is hereditary and many patients become visually disabled by the time they reach their 20s. This disease has a great emotional impact since it affects one’s ability to work, socialize, and live normally.

People living with AMD often find it difficult to read and do activities such as driving.

Key Takeaways

Macular degeneration causes and symptoms vary. Most of them are associated with hereditary and environmental factors. Macular degeneration is incurable but treatment and lifestyle changes can slow its progression.

Learn more about Eye Diseases here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

What is the Macula?, https://www.macularsociety.org/macular-disease/macula/, Accessed January 6, 2021

What is Macular Degeneration?, https://www.macular.org/what-macular-degeneration, Accessed January 6, 2021

Specialty Glasses for Macular Degeneration, https://www.brightfocus.org/macular/article/glasses-and-macular, Accessed January 6, 2021

Age-Related Macular Degeneration, https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/age-related-macular-degeneration, Accessed January 6, 2021

Stargardt Disease, https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/stargardt-disease, Accessed January 6, 2021

Macular Degeneration, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/wilmer/conditions/mac_degen.html, Accessed January 6, 2021

What is Macular Degeneration, https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/amd-macular-degeneration, Accessed January 6, 2021

Myopia, pathological myopia and myopic macular degeneration, https://www.macularsociety.org/macular-disease/macular-conditions/myopic-macular-degeneration/, Accessed January 6, 2021

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Written by Hazel Caingcoy Updated May 24
Medically reviewed by Victor Ephraime V. Paulino, MD, DPBO
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