Diagnosis & Treatment
What is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is a condition of the central retina which can have severe negative effects on a person’s vision. Over time, this condition can destroy the macula — the keenest, most sensitive part of the retina which is responsible for reading, driving, and seeing faces.
Macular degeneration is most often diagnosed in patients over the age of 65.
People who develop macular degeneration do so over a long period of time. These people feel no pain, because the retina has no pain receptors to relay damage, tears, or processes like macular degeneration.
One of the most common complaints of people who are developing this condition is a decline in their ability to see clearly in low light. Other signs which may develop later include the distortion of print when reading or the distortion of straight edges. Macular degeneration can also cause a person to see gray spots in their central visual field as the disease process progresses.
Macular degeneration primarily affects our aging populations. Other risk factors include heredity, sex, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and ethnicity. Studies demonstrate that females and Caucasians tend to have higher rates of macular degeneration than other groups.
A diet low in leafy green vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids poses significant risk for people, as well. It should also be noted that smoking causes a 4 times greater risk for macular degeneration than being smoke-free. Most researchers consider smoking the single most controllable risk factor in macular degeneration.
Macular degeneration is caused by an expression of genetic factors that, when under the right conditions, results in an inflammatory response in the retina. While the full pathophysiology of the disease process is not well understood, it is known that the inflammatory process leads to a failure to remove cellular metabolic debris from the retina.
This debris accumulates and leads to atrophy, or cellular stress and death. This stress can stimulate a network of blood vessels to propagate beneath the retina, eventually causing a bleed. Once the sub-retinal bleed occurs, the retina quickly perishes. This final component is known as wet or exudative macular degeneration.
In macular degeneration, early detection is key. We are fortunate in clinical practice to have diagnostic tools which are sensitive enough to see the individual layers of the retina. This helps our doctors see beyond what the human eye can see during a clinical exam.
After a patient’s condition has been identified, the disease process can be slowed significantly with dietary changes, lifestyle changes, and supplements. Our doctors partner with local and regional retina specialists for patients who need their care appropriately escalated.
Is macular degeneration affecting your vision?
We can help!