Have you noticed that reading words on the page is more difficult than it used to be? Does it seem that your excellent long-distance vision that made driving so easy has disappeared? This may not have anything to do with your glasses prescription. The problem may be macular degeneration.
What Is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is a deterioration of the central portion of the retina that causes poor central vision and is the leading cause of impaired reading or detailed vision. In other words, the part of your eyes responsible for seeing directly ahead starts to get thinner. This is called the macula, and macular degeneration means that it’s beginning to wear out.
With fewer cells to receive light and colors, your brain has a harder time creating a clear picture. You can still see, just not with the same clarity as before. Although macular degeneration causes distortion of central and color vision, side vision is not affected. Your peripheral vision can stay just as sharp as ever.
Do You Need To Worry?
There are two types of macular degeneration. The first, dry macular degeneration, is the most common. It causes vision problems that make your life more difficult, but it rarely leads to serious issues such as blindness.
Other people develop wet macular degeneration. This is caused by abnormal blood vessels in the retina. If blood leaks into the retina, it can cause scarring. While rare, this condition is also more serious, potentially leading to vision loss if left untreated.
Visiting an eye doctor is important if you suspect you have macular degeneration. That way, you get the help you need instead of a prescription for glasses that won’t correct the real issue.
What Are the Symptoms of Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration only affects the central part of your vision, so everything you see straight ahead looks blurry. This is different from blurred vision caused by nearsightedness or farsightedness. With macular degeneration, no matter how close or far away something is, it will always look hazy when you focus on it.
In addition to blurry spots, you may notice other vision symptoms:
- Colors look washed out or less intense
- Faces are hard for you to recognize
- You need bright lights to read or work on intricate tasks
- Straight lines look curved from a certain angle
- It takes a long time for your eyes to adjust to dark rooms
- There are small blind spots in your field of vision
It’s important to understand that these changes happen to people who used to have excellent vision. It can also affect people who use glasses.
Does Macular Degeneration Affect One Eye or Both Eyes?
This condition can affect one of your eyes or both. Many people who have macular degeneration in only one eye don’t realize it because the brain compensates. It “turns down” the signal from the blurry eye and relies more on your good eye.
What Causes Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is often a natural result of the aging process and is most common in people over 60 but can appear as early as 40. Occasionally, macular degeneration is caused by injury, infection, or inflammation. The disease may also be hereditary.
- Family history: There are specific genes that make people more likely to have problems with macular degeneration. If your parents or grandparents experienced the condition at an early age, you have a higher risk of getting it, too.
- Age: Like many other parts of the body, the macula can stop working correctly as you age. Damaged cells are less likely to be replaced, and vision as a whole often suffers over time. About 48 million Americans have age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
- Race: Scientists aren’t sure why, but Caucasian people have a higher risk of getting AMD. This may be related to genetic factors. According to the National Eye Institute, 2.5% of White Americans had AMD in 2010, compared to less than 1% of other race groups.
What Other Risk Factors Are There for Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Besides age-related causes, there are several other factors that can increase your risk of developing AMD in the future:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Diets high in saturated fat
- Head injuries
How Can You Prevent Macular Degeneration?
There is currently no proven macular degeneration treatment, at least as far as age-related macular degeneration is concerned. Nevertheless, you can take steps to prevent it from appearing or slow down its progress. First, avoid all the risk factors you can: Avoid smoking, exercise regularly, and eat a healthy diet.
Second, try to get plenty of nutrients that are great for your eyesight overall:
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Fresh fish, such as tuna or salmon
- Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, bell peppers, and berries
- Vitamin E: Whole grains, nuts, and green vegetables
- Zinc: Lean meat, legumes, dairy, and eggs
- Beta-carotene: Carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and leafy greens
More studies are needed, but some research suggests these nutrients may support vision health and slow the progression of AMD.
Why Should You Visit the Eye Health Specialists at Southwest Eyecare?
The best way to take care of your vision is by scheduling regular checkups with our qualified professionals. At Southwest Eyecare, we take the time to look for signs of age-related macular degeneration and other vision problems. By detecting them ahead of time, we can help slow down the progression of these issues.
If you notice sudden changes to your vision that may mean wet macular degeneration, schedule an appointment immediately. We can provide medications that block the growth of abnormal blood vessels and protect your retina. There are also laser treatments for sealing these vessels permanently, preventing permanent vision loss.
To learn more about age-related macular degeneration or to schedule an appointment, contact our caring and friendly team in Albuquerque, NM, right away. You can also reach out by calling (505) 346-0500.