Macular degeneration (MD) is one of the leading causes of central vision loss effected by damage to your macula. The eye disease is painless, which may make it difficult to detect in early stages. Due to the progressive nature of MD, you should be wary of any sudden or gradual changes in the sharpness of your eyesight.
There are 4 common symptoms to look out for:
1. Blurred vision
This can be the first sign of macular degeneration as the macula slowly deteriorates and struggles to focus on fine print and detail. The surrounding retina can still be used to see things, however, objects will appear less sharp in the absence of a healthy macula. Even if your blurred vision is unrelated to MD, it still might be time for you to get your eyes checked.
2. Visual distortion
MD often causes the appearance of straight lines to appear curvy or bent due to the stretching of retinal layers in the eye. An Amsler grid can be used as a quick and easy macular degeneration test that can be used at home to self-monitor your eyesight and recognise any distortion of straight lines. If you notice any bent lines, visit your optometrist for an eye examination immediately.
3. Difficulty in distinguishing faces
When your macula losing its visual acuity it can make it difficult to recognise fine details in everyday objects, words and faces.
4. Dark spots
Your peripheral vision may be functioning normally but patients often report seeing darkness (varying degrees) in their central vision, where the central retina would normally focus on.
These four common signs don’t necessarily mean that you have Macular Degeneration, but they do indicate that you should visit an eye care professional immediately. Early detection of MD may help delay the progression of the disease as you take steps towards available treatment.
Treatment for Macular Degeneration
There is no cure for MD, however several treatments are available depending on whether you have wet or dry macular degeneration. In the case of wet macular degeneration, a protein called Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) is the culprit responsible for abnormal growth of new blood vessels under the retina. These vessels tend to break and leak fluid toward the macula causing severe loss of sight. To delay its damage, various drugs (anti-VEGF) are available that hinder the functioning and growth of the protein. There is currently no medical treatments for dry macular degeneration, but some studies have shown that certain nutritional supplements could delay the progression of the disease.
Who is most at risk of MD?
MD is primarily age-related and is found most commonly in people aged over 50. The disease may also be hereditary so people with a family history of MD have a 50% chance of developing it. Smokers are also known to be 3x more likely to develop the disease than non-smokers.
Can I reduce my risk of Macular degeneration?
You may reduce the risk of MD or delay the progression of the disease by taking steps to look after your eye health and diet. You can start with...
- Book an appointment with your eye care professional and get your macula checked
- Protect your eyes from direct sunlight by wearing protective sunglasses
- Monitor possible signs of MD by using an Amsler grid daily.
- Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet
- Avoid smoking
For effective treatment of Macular Degeneration early detection is vital. Dedecting the early signs through a regular thorough eye examination, before you notice any symptoms, will result in better management of the disease and its progression. To find out more on macular degeneration visit your local Eyecare Plus Optometrist Practice.