Macular degeneration is the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, the inside back layer of the eye. Though very common and painless, macular degeneration is an incurable eye disease. It most commonly occurs in people over the age of 50, and becomes more common the older you get.
Overview and Symptoms
There are two types of macular degeneration: “dry” and “wet.” Dry age-related macular degeneration, the more common of the two, does not involve any leakage of blood or fluid, however, loss of vision may still occur. It progresses slower than the wet type. Wet age-related macular degeneration is when abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and macula then bleed and leak fluid distorting or destroying central vision. Vision loss may be rapid and severe.
The most common early symptom in dry macular degeneration is blurred vision. The most common symptom in wet macular degeneration is straight lines appearing crooked or wavy.
Macular degeneration is often diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam. This eye exam includes having drops placed in your eyes to enlarge, or dilate, the pupils. Your ophthalmologist will carefully examine the central portion of the retina to determine the presence or absence of macular degeneration using various illuminating and magnifying devices.
Other diagnostic tests that may be performed include retinal photography, fluorescein angiography and optical coherence tomography. These tests can help to differentiate between dry and wet forms of macular degeneration and determine the progression and response to treatment can be better measured.
There is currently no treatment available to treat dry macular degeneration, however, lifestyle changes, such as eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and smoking cessation, can slow the progression. Wet macular degeneration can be treated with laser surgery, photodynamic therapy, and injections into the eye. None of these treatments is a permanent cure and the disease and loss of vision may progress despite treatment. Natural treatments with antioxidants, vitamins and lutein may be able to help prevent and slow the progression of wet macular degeneration.
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