What is macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration is a disease of the macula, the central part of the retina. The retina is a layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye, capturing light. The macula provides central vision for us to read, drive, and view fine details. When the macula becomes damaged or unable to work properly, the central vision becomes blurred, distorted, cloudy, or dark.
What are the risk factors?
Risk factors include:
- Age: 65 years or older
- Family history of macular degeneration
- Northern/Western European ancestors
- Light complexion
- Cigarette smoking/exposure
- Diet high in red meat and low in vegetables
- High cholesterol levels
What are the different types of macular degeneration?
Dry form macular degeneration is more common and less likely to cause vision loss. It causes thinning of the macula, gradual vision loss, mildly blurred vision, and difficulty adjusting to changes in light. It may also progress to the wet form.
Wet form macular degeneration is less common and more likely to cause rapid and severe vision loss.
Macular drusen are lipid deposits formed in the macula. These deposits typically indicate the risk of macular degeneration. Macular drusen doesn’t usually cause vision loss unless it progresses to macular degeneration.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms include:
- Mildly blurred central vision in one or both eyes
- Dark or empty areas in or near the central vision
- Straight lines look bent or distorted on a grid
How is macular degeneration diagnosed?
An eye exam by your ophthalmologist will consist of:
- A visual acuity test
- A dilated eye exam of your macula using special lenses
- Photographs of your eye; There may be a photographic eye test if there is bleeding under the macula
- Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)
How is macular degeneration treated?
Dry Treatment: Antioxidant vitamins and minerals, lutein, and zeaxanthin do not cure the condition, but can slow the progression of the disease.
Wet Treatment: Injections of VEGF-blockers or anti-VEGF treatments into the eye stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels and bleeding. These medications do not cure the disease, but can slow the loss of vision.
Will I go blind?
With the advent of the newer injectable medications, severe vision loss is less likely and can be reversed in some patients. These medications must be injected at regular intervals to prevent further bleeding under the macula and more vision loss.
Macular degeneration runs in my family. What should I do?
There are things you can do now to reduce your risk:
- Stop smoking.
- Cut down on red meat.
- Eat your vegetables.
- Keep your cholesterol under control.
- See your ophthalmologist yearly.
My doctor gave me a grid. What is it used for?
Consider the Amsler grid an early warning system. It is helpful in detecting changes in vision such as distortions. Place the grid somewhere you will see it every day, like on the refrigerator or the cabinet. If you see any changes in the grid, call your doctor immediately.
About Dr. Dawnielle J. Kerner, MD
As a highly skilled board certified ophthalmologist with over 20 years of clinical experience, Dawnielle Kerner, MD provides advanced, patient-centered care for a variety of eye conditions and disorders. Dr. Kerner is experienced in treating all types of vision and eye conditions including glaucoma, cataracts, dry eye, diabetic eye disease, macular degeneration, corneal disease, and uveitis. She sees patients 12 years of age and older; however, she does treat younger patients with congenital glaucoma.