Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a progressive eye disease that is the leading cause of blindness in older men and women. It occurs when the macula, which is the area of the eye responsible for central vision, begins to deteriorate. This deterioration leads to a gradual loss of central vision, which can result in being classified as legally blind despite still having some peripheral vision.
Macular degeneration is most common in people age 55 and older. It is vital to see your eye doctor regularly so that they can monitor your vision for signs of this disease. The ophthalmologists at Kirk Eye Center have decades of combined experience identifying and managing macular degeneration, and will be happy to help you. Call us at 708-397-8114 to schedule your appointment today.
Types of Macular Degeneration
There are two different types of macular degeneration, called “wet” and “dry.” Dry macular degeneration is by far the most common, affecting 85 to 90 percent of AMD sufferers. Wet AMD is less common, but can lead to more severe and rapid loss of eyesight.
- Dry Macular Degeneration: This form of AMD tends to progress slowly, and is characterized by yellow deposits known as “drusen” forming under the macula. These drusen cause the macula to thin, which leads to loss of function.
- Wet Macular Degeneration: Wet AMD is characterized by the formation of new, obtrusive blood vessels in the eye. Leaking from these blood vessels can cause the macula to be displaced, resulting in rapid loss of central vision.
Dry AMD may be able to be halted or slowed through lifestyle changes, but there is also a chance that it can turn into wet AMD with no intervention. If you start to notice your vision becoming worse, see your eye doctor as soon as possible.
Symptoms of AMD
The main symptoms of age related macular degeneration are a gradual loss of central vision and fuzzy or distorted vision. You may start noticing shadows or blind spots in your central vision, and you may begin to have difficulty recognizing faces, reading, driving, or performing other tasks that require attention to detail in the center of your vision.
You may not experience any signs of vision loss in the early stages of AMD, which is part of the reason why it’s so important to have regular eye checkups. Our eye doctors can recognize the signs of macular degeneration in an eye exam, and advise you accordingly in order to hopefully slow its progression.
Risk Factors For Macular Degeneration
While the causes of macular degeneration are poorly understood, studies have shown that there are certain risk factors that make you more susceptible to it. These risk factors include:
Age is the single most important risk factor for developing AMD. Approximately one in eight people over the age of 60 develop macular degeneration, and one in three over the age of 80.
Your risk is also heightened if you have relatives with AMD, as there has been shown to be a genetic predisposition to the disease. Race also plays a part, with Caucasians more likely to develop AMD than those of other races. Smoking and obesity, as well as unhealthy lifestyle choices in general, may also raise your risk.
Macular Degeneration Treatment
Unfortunately, there is no cure for macular degeneration. Wet macular degeneration may be treated with photodynamic therapy (PDT), which uses a combination of a photosensitive drug and laser therapy to seal off the leaking blood vessels and prevent further vision loss.
Dry macular degeneration has no known treatment, but lifestyle changes may be enough to slow any vision loss. If you are at high risk for AMD, it is recommended to eat a diet high in zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene to help lower that risk.
Good nutrition and regular exercise seem to be the best defense against AMD. Our doctors can recommend certain lifestyle changes if you are diagnosed with early stage macular degeneration, and will closely monitor your disease and do everything we can to help prevent it from getting worse.
Schedule Your Macular Degeneration Appointment
If you are concerned about the possibility of macular degeneration, please contact Kirk Eye Center at 708-397-8114 to schedule your appointment. We serve patients in Chicago, River Forest, Oak Park, Cicero, Naperville, and other areas of nearby Illinois.