Understanding Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people aged 60 and up. Not cataracts. Not glaucoma. Macular degeneration. You may not even have heard of it.
Macular degeneration, as the name implies, is the deterioration of the macula, the central portion of the retina. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of the eye. Because macular degeneration develops as a person ages, the condition is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration. It rarely results in a person becoming blind, but it can significantly impact the quality of a person’s vision.
We can spot and treat macular degeneration at Millennium Park Eye Center.
Dry and wet forms
There are two basic types of macular degeneration.
- Dry form — This is the more common form of macular degeneration. It is characterized by the presence of yellow deposits, called drusen, in the macula. A few small drusen may not impact the person’s vision. But as they grow in size and number they can cause dimming or distortion of vision that people notice when they read. If the dry form advances, the disease can cause thinning of the light-sensitive layer of cells in the macula leading to tissue death. This is called the atrophic form of dry macular degeneration. Patients will develop blind spots in the center of their vision or total loss of central vision.
- Wet form — In the “wet form” of macular degeneration, abnormal blood vessels grow in the choroid underneath the macula. These blood vessels leak blood and fluid into the retina, causing distorted vision (lines become wavy), blind spots, and a loss of central vision. Vision loss occurs when these abnormal blood vessels bleed and eventually form a scar.
Symptoms of macular degeneration
As is the case with many eye conditions, in its early stages macular degeneration may not have any symptoms. It often progresses and affects both eyes before a person begins to notice changes. The first sign is a dim, blurry spot in the center of a person’s vision. The spot will likely get bigger and darker with time. Another symptom is diminished or changed color perception.
Regular exams are the key
Age-related macular degeneration can be detected in a routine eye exam with the team at Millennium Park. Since the presence of drusen is a common early sign, these are easy to identify when examining your eyes. Early detection, as with most things, can dramatically impact the severity of the disease.
Not to nag you like your mother, but regular eye exams are not just an exercise in unnecessary health care. These eye exams are where conditions such as macular degeneration can be identified before they become more serious and start impacting your eyesight.
Is it time for your eye exam? Call the team at Millennium Park Eye Center, 312-996-2020, to make your appointment.