What is Macular Degeneration?

Macula is located at the center of the retina. It is full of photoreceptors and is responsible for detailed central vision and color discrimination. Age-related macular degeneration is a progressive disease of the macular that is related to aging.

It is estimated that 8 percent of people around the world have signs of age-related macular degeneration. The condition currently affects about 11 million Americans and 170 million people worldwide, and the prevalence is expected to increase over the coming decades as the proportion of older people in the population increases.

Stages of Macular Degeneration

There are three stages of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

Early AMD – Most people do not experience vision loss in the early stage of AMD, which is why regular eye exams are important, particularly if you have more than one risk factor (see below). Early AMD is diagnosed by the presence of medium-sized drusen (yellow deposits beneath the retina).

Intermediate AMD – At this stage, there may be some vision loss, but there still may not be noticeable symptoms. A comprehensive eye exam with specific tests will look for larger drusen and/or pigment changes in the retina.

Late AMD – At this stage, vision loss has become noticeable.

Symptoms

Patients may be asymptomatic at the early stage of disease. However, when the disease affects the central vision, they may notice the following symptoms:

Blurring of central vision : the patients may have difficulties in reading books.

Distorted vision : straight lines such as antenna or outlines of buildings may appear wavy or bent.

A dark or empty spot appears in the center of the visual field.

Colors appeared dull or washed out.

Risk factors:

The exact cause of age-related macular degeneration is still unknown, and researches have identified the following risk factors:

Advancing age: prevalence increases from 1% at age 55 to 15% at age 80

Family history of the disease

Smoking: smokers are more than 2 times higher risk of developing age-related macular degeneration

Long term exposure to ultraviolet light

Treatment

Treatment options include laser photocoagulation and photodynamic therapy.

Prevention

No smoking.

Avoid prolonged exposure under direct sunlight and wear sunglasses if necessary.

Take more food rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C and E (such as carrot, cereal, green leafy vegetables and fruits, and whole grains) may help protect us from getting this disease.

Regular eye examination: regular eye examination is the only way to detect age related macular degeneration. As patients may be asymptomatic at the early stage of disease, and early treatment can minimize further vision loss, so it is important for elders to have regular eye examination Age-related macular degeneration can result in permanent vision loss; thus elders should seek medical attention promptly if they notice problems in central vision or color vision.

Posted on December 21, 2021