As one grows old, the macula of the eye can deteriorate causing loss of vision. This process is known as macular degeneration. It is also referred as AMD (Age related Macular Degeneration). It can cause significant loss of vision in many cases but the person may not lose full vision. People above 65 years are susceptible to macular degeneration. Symptoms of this disease include development of dark blurry spots in the center of the eyes. Often the affected person may not realize it until the macula has been completely degenerated in both the eyes. Treatment is available in the form of drugs and laser therapy.
There are 2 kinds of macular degeneration namely dry form and wet form. In the dry type, yellow deposits appear in the macula (center of the eyes). As it grows bigger in size, it can cause distortion of vision. The center vision gets disturbed in advanced stages of macular degeneration.
In the wet form, choroidal neovascularization occurs. The blood vessels below the macula region would grow abnormally in size causing leakage of blood or fluids into the retina leading to scarring. This would eventually cause loss of vision. Very often, dry type of macular degeneration is the root cause of vision problem in elderly people. It is essential for old people to have their eyes examined regularly to prevent macular degeneration.
Who are at risk?
- Old age is the major risk for macular degeneration.
- It is the major cause of permanent vision loss in elderly people.
- People with family history of macular degeneration are more prone to develop this problem than others.
- Diabetes, blood pressure and high cholesterol and being obese can also contribute for MD in elderly people.
Macular degeneration would not show any signs until the macula has been totally affected in both the eyes. The affected person may develop dark blurry spots in the center of their eyes which may grow big in size over time. They may have problems in perceiving colors often.
Your ophthalmologist can detect macular degeneration during routine eye examination. Presence of any yellowish deposits in your eyes indicates degeneration of macula of the eyes. Your doctor can find accumulation of fine pigments in the retina. She would ask you to look into varying patterns of straight lines on a board. If you see any wavy lines there it is a definite sign of macular degeneration.
Angiography is another procedure used to detect this problem. Through computer assisted program, photos of the path of the dye material are observed when it reaches your eyes. Any abnormal fluid leak can be easily detected in this test. The sooner you detect macular degeneration, the more will be recovery of vision. Any delay can account for permanent loss of vision.
Macular degeneration in advanced stage cannot be treated. But your doctor can slow up the process of degeneration using anti angiogenesis drugs like Avastin or Lucentis. For people with early stages of the problem, full recovery of vision is possible with the help of these drugs which can effectively block the growth of fresh blood vessels and any abnormal leakage of fluid into the eyes.
Including plenty of vitamins in your daily diet can reduce the risk of macular degeneration in elderly people. Laser treatment can be used to block the abnormal growth of blood vessels that causes MD. Photodynamic approach can also be used using light sensitive medications to block the blood vessels that damage your vision. Special devices are used to produce magnified images of the object that helps in improving vision for affected people. Submacular surgery and retinal translocation are considered for treating macular degeneration.
Most of the people with macular degeneration will not lose their entire vision. They might have poor vision that can be improved with medications and other approaches. Vision loss caused by wet form is irreversible. You can prevent macular degeneration by going for regular eye check-ups if you have crossed 60 years.