What Causes Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration affects nearly 2 million individuals in the United States alone. This degenerative eye disease is also the leading cause of severe vision loss and legal blindness in those over 60 years. As one of the most harmful eye diseases out there, you have to stop and question, where does it all start?

The exact cause of macular degeneration is unknown. Research does show that come conditions and habits may be the leading cause of this degenerative eye disease. However, to get a greater clarification of this disease, you must first understand the different forms.

Dry Macular Degeneration

Dry macular degeneration is a slow process that may form years before one’s vision is actually affected. Yellow-white waste called drusen builds up within the retina. This buildup increases as time goes on. And although such buildup may be seen at a much younger age, such as 30 or so, the effects may not become noticeable until nearly 40 years later.

Drusen buildup can only be found through eye examination, so make sure you stay up to date on eye check-ups as time progresses.

This disease directly affects the macula, which is the most sensitive part of the retina. The macula acts as a photoreceptor, turning light stimulus and neurons into images through the optic nerve. It is also provides clarity in direct line of sight. Once the macula is damaged, one may experience darkness, blurred vision, or distortion.

As a silent disease, dry macular degeneration forms without any signs of pain. One may notice the disease once vision starts to become blurred or dimmed, typically during reading. Once it progresses, actual blind spots may occur and light seems to play a larger role in vision. One may need more light when doing close work or have difficulty in adapting to light change.

Dry macular degeneration totals about 85 to 90 percent of cases, however, this disease may often lead to a worse form of the disease, called wet macular degeneration.

Wet Macular Degeneration

Wet, or neovascular, macular degeneration is a more severe form of this eye disease. Neovascular macular degeneration is much more rapid and may lead to legal blindness. In just days or weeks, vision may be completely lost.

This is caused by blood vessels underneath the eye that leak fluid into the retina. Because of this, the retina may bleed or even scar, leaving one in discomfort and ultimately, loss of central vision.

Although only 10 percent of macular degeneration victims suffer from this, it is a very serious problem and those with dry macular degeneration should seek help immediately to prevent the disease from furthering. Through traditional treatment, many must seek repeat procedures and treatments.

Risk Factors and Symptoms

There are several risk factors that may assist the development of macular degeneration. Be aware and take these into consideration:

  • Age—over 65
  • Heredity/genetics
  • Fair skinned
  • Light colored eyes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Obesity—causes dry macular degeneration to form into wet macular degeneration more quickly
  • Cardiovascular issues—heart and blood vessels
  • Female (higher risk)
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Sleep apnea
  • Diets high in cholesterol, fat, and glycemic index and low in antioxidants and green vegetables

If you are experiencing any of the below signs or symptoms, refer to your eye doctor immediately.

  • Difficulty with light—i.e., difficulty seeing when walking into a darker room from a lighter room
  • Need for better light resolution
  • Difficulty seeing textures
  • Blind spots
  • Blurred vision
  • Straight lines looking bent or wavy
  • Objects looking smaller than others
  • Color perception

Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd_facts

Haddrill, M. (2016, March 21). Understanding Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Retrieved from http://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/amd.htm

Kozarsky, A., M.D. (2015, April 26). Age-Related Macular Degeneration Overview. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/macular-degeneration/age-related-macular-degeneration-overview?page=4

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015, December 4). Dry Macular Degeneration. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dry-macular-degeneration/symptoms-causes/dxc-20164888

Shepard, J. D., M.D. (n.d.). Macular Degeneration. Retrieved from http://www.emedicinehealth.com/macular_degeneration/article_em.htm

Understanding Your Disease. (2015, July 7). Retrieved from http://www.brightfocus.org/macular/information

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