Macular degeneration is disease of the retina. The retina is the tissue that lines the inside of your eyeball. It is like the film in a camera; it is where the pictures are formed inside your eye. Macular degeneration (AMD) refers to aging changes in the central part of the retina called the macula. The macula provides detailed central vision which is essential for tasks such as reading. Advanced macular degeneration leads to difficulties with other tasks as well, such as driving, and recognizing peoples’ faces. Although we cannot cure AMD , we do have effective new treatments to offer our patients, some of which can be life altering. It is important to know where you stand in regard to this disease, so that you can do everything possible to minimize your chances of significant vision loss as you age.

Macular Degeneration Symptoms

Early stages of AMD may not have any symptoms. However, there are two types of AMD with varying systems so we’ll review both.

Dry Macular Degeneration

Dry Macular Degeneration is a buildup of waste products in the retina and its symptoms tend to present gradually. The onset of symptoms can take years and include:

  • Difficulty reading in dim light and gradually increase to significantly blurred central vision.
    • For example, pieces of text will disappear, so an “8” may look like a “6”.
  • Central vision can become distorted, blurry or spotty.

Wet Macular Degeneration

Wet Macular Degeneration is when new blood vessels grow in the macular tissue. Symptoms can include:

  • Wavy or distorted vision that comes on quickly and may result in severely decreased vision.

If you have questions about AMD and your sight contact us at Relf EyeCare Specialists to schedule an appointment.

Macular Degeneration FAQ’s

Does everyone get macular degeneration?

No, but it is quite common in our population; it is common in people who are fair skinned and blue eyed. It is the number one cause of visual impairment in our elderly population.

Are there different kinds of macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration is often described as either “dry” or “wet”; “wet” refers to bleeding underneath the retina. This is a somewhat artificial categorization, as both types are largely thought to be variants of the same disease. The dry type often predates the wet type; the dry type can suddenly turn into the wet type.

I have the “dry” type of macular degeneration. How would I know if it turned into the “wet” kind?

The transition from “dry” to “wet” macular degeneration often causes a sudden change in central vision. This is usually noticed as distortion – straight lines suddenly appear wavy. Any sudden change in vision warrants an immediate phone call. We consider this an emergency.

What are the risk factors for macular degeneration?

Much of the risk of macular degeneration is inherited and thus beyond our control. Other risk factors, however, are well within our control. These include diet, exercise, and control of cardiac risk factors. A diet rich in leafy greens (leaf lettuce, spinach, broccoli) is thought to be protective, as is an active lifestyle. Smoking is a BIG risk factor.

What can I do to prevent macular degeneration?

A healthy lifestyle, as outlined above, is a good start. For those who already have a moderate amount of macular degeneration, certain vitamins have been shown to be protective. Your doctor will discuss this with you following your eye exam, as appropriate.

I have macular degeneration; will I go blind?

This is a very real concern to all of those who are dealing with this disease – patients, friends, and family members. The bottom line is this: You will not go blind from macular degeneration. At its very worst, macular degeneration takes away all of your central vision. This makes it impossible to read, drive, or recognize faces of friends and loved ones. But it does not leave you in the dark. Useful peripheral vision remains, which allows you to maintain a fair degree of independence. Barring other visual problems, macular degeneration generally does not force you out of your home.