Age-related macular degeneration occurs in two forms, dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration. The symptoms associated with macular degeneration are dependent upon which type of the eye disease a person has.
Dry macular degeneration occurs when the light sensitive cells in the retina gradually break down. This causes damage in the macula of the eye, which is responsible for central vision. The loss of vision with dry macular degeneration is progressive but gradual. Dry macular degeneration accounts for approximately 90 percent of the diagnosed cases of this eye disease and only 10 percent of the blindness.
Wet macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels behind the retina start to grow under the macula. These new blood vessels tend to be very fragile and often leak blood and fluid. The blood and fluid raise the macula from its normal place at the back of the eye. Damage to the macula occurs rapidly. Wet macular degeneration accounts for only 10 percent of the diagnosed cases of this eye disease and 90 percent of the blindness contributed to macular degeneration.
Because of the nature of this eye disease and its two distinct forms, it is important to recognize the early symptoms that may be associated with macular degeneration.
First, it is imporant to note that with both forms of macular degeneration, there is no pain.
Some of the more common symptoms of dry macular degeneration are:
- Blurry vision – As a few cells start to die in the macula, the clarity of objects begins to decline. This blurry vision will go away in bright light.
- As dry macular degeneration progresses, people generally notice a small but growing blindspot in the centre of their vision.
- As dry macular degneration enters the late stages, the blindspot has generally become large enough to obscure the entire centre vision
Some of the more common symptoms of wet macular degeneration are:
- Straight lines appear to be wavy or crooked as the fluid leaking in the retina lifts the macula and distorts vision.
- A small blindspot may appear as it does in dry macular degeneration.
- The blindspont may grow rapidly as more fluid and blood leaks. The continued bleeding and fluid leakage is what causes the rapid loss of vision in people diagnosed with wet macular degeneration.
There is no known cure for either form of macular degeneration. Several drugs are now available to treat and slow the progression of wet macular degeneration, and in some cases, these drugs have been known to reverse the damage caused by the leakage. There is no known treatment for dry macular degeneration, but it has been shown that antioxidant supplements may slow the progression of the disease.
It is imperative that people have regular yearly eye examinations, especially if there is a history of macular degeneration in their family. Early detection of this eye disease leads to early treatment and therefore improves the chances of maintaining ones vision.
Macular degeneration can affect anyone at anytime. Ensuring proper eye health, maintaining a healthy diet and reducing the risk factors associated with the eye disease can reduce the risk of macular degeneration developing.