Macular degeneration – Causes, signs, management, and prevention

Macular degeneration – Causes, signs, management, and prevention

Macular degeneration is an eye condition that makes the central vision blurry. It typically affects people over 60. While the condition can worsen over time, it often does not cause absolute vision loss. It affects the central portion of the retina, which is a layer behind the eyeball containing light-sensitive cells that allow one to see. So, when affected, one might have trouble recognizing faces, reading, and driving; however, their peripheral vision stays intact.

Causes
While macular degeneration can be an inherited eye condition, it may develop without a family history of the condition. Here, the macula begins to deteriorate, often due to aging. This is called age-related macular degeneration or AMD). Alternatively, one can be at risk of macular degeneration due to factors like unhealthy eating habits, infections, head injuries, and diabetes.

Symptoms
The macula in the eye is responsible for sending pictures from the optic nerve to the brain. When the macula is damaged, the brain cannot read or understand the images that the eyes capture. Most people with macular degeneration do not experience symptoms until the disease worsens. However, over time, the following symptoms can be observed:

– Poor and blurry vision
– Inability to see in low light
– Changes or issues in the way one perceives colors
– Dark or blank spots in the field of vision
– Straight lines may begin to seem wavy or curving

Management options
When detected early, it may be possible to reverse macular degeneration. However, the treatment can vary based on the type of macular degeneration. Here are the management options for each type:

Wet macular degeneration: Here, fluid buildup can cause a bulge in the macula. This condition may not have a permanent cure, but treatment can help manage the symptoms. Most options for this type target the blood vessels growing abnormally. For instance, prescription treatment can curb the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the eye. Alternatively, laser treatment may be utilized to seal leaky vessels. A combination of both options, called photodynamic therapy, also targets and seals leaking vessels.

Dry macular degeneration: Here, the macula becomes dry and thin with age. While there is no cure for late-stage dry AMD, nutritional supplements and prescription treatment can slow disease progression.

Prevention
Certain lifestyle changes can lower the risk of macular degeneration. Here are a few preventive tips to consider:

– Maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels
– Eat well-balanced meals
– Exercise regularly
– Wear hats and sunglasses outdoors to protect the eyes from sun damage
– Manage existing health conditions
– Undergo regular eye tests to look for early signs

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