About Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is a progressive eye condition that is common in older men and women and is the leading cause of blindness in adults 60 and older. The disease affects the macula, the middle portion of the retina that is responsible for controlling our central (versus peripheral) vision. This is what helps us see to drive, read, recognize colors, observe small details, and many other functions. Essentially, this happens because the macula starts to deteriorate (macular degeneration) as part of the natural aging process. The proteins in the retina begin to form into clumps (known as dry macular degeneration) or when new blood vessels form under the macula, which bleeds or leaks fluid (called wet macular degeneration). At Kirk Eye Center in River Forest and Gurnee, IL, our team is highly trained in diagnosing macular degeneration during comprehensive eye exams.
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Macular Degeneration Symptoms
Both wet and dry macular degeneration are connected to aging, but the symptoms differ somewhat. The dry form of the disease is the most common because it occurs first, and it usually progresses slowly. Although patients with the dry type have reduced central vision, many still maintain enough sight to carry out their regular activities. The signs of dry macular degeneration include:
- Blind spots
- Distorted, blurry vision
- Difficulty with activities, like driving or reading small print
Wet type macular degeneration is more severe, even though it is diagnosed less often. It is essential for patients with wet type to receive a proper diagnosis and care, as rapid central vision loss can ensue. However, options are available to control the advancement of this disease. Patients with wet macular degeneration typically experience:
- Distorted sight (including straight lines appearing like waves)
- Difficulty perceiving colors
- Blind spots
Causes of Macular Degeneration
Dry macular degeneration appears first and can progress into wet macular degeneration in some patients. This happens because proteins in the macula become hard and form into clumps, causing blurry sight or dark areas of vision. The dry form can lead to wet macular degeneration when the blood vessels form beneath the macula and begin to swell and eventually leak fluid or blood. Experts do not know the exact causes of macular degeneration, but age, genetics, and lifestyle (particularly smoking) are all said to be risk factors. Other conditions, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, and fair coloring, also contribute.
Macular Degeneration Treatment Options
There are not any formal medical treatments for dry macular degeneration, but there are certain nutritional supplements, low-vision therapies, and vision aids that can help individuals continue to be independent and maintain their daily tasks. For patients with wet macular degeneration, our retina specialist can help control the disease and often regain lost vision by using anti-vascular endothelial growth factor ( anti-VEGF) injections (Avastin, Lucentis, and Eylea). These injections target and regress the abnormal blood vessels that cause vision loss in wet macular degeneration. Your ophthalmologist will recommend a therapy based on your specific needs and how far your condition has progressed.
Help Is Available
At Kirk Eye Center, we understand the worry and emotional pain that can come from a macular degeneration diagnosis. Our skilled team of ophthalmologists is here to provide the best medical care in a compassionate environment. We will carefully determine your proper treatment option and take the time to educate you on managing your disease. If you have noticed changes in your vision, schedule an appointment at our River Forest or Gurnee, IL office to get back on the path to better eye health.