Macular degeneration is an eye condition that affects the health of the macula, the area of the retina that allows you to see clearly in your central field of vision. Once it becomes damaged, you may have trouble reading fine print, driving safely, or perceiving colors. Macular degeneration can be wet or dry, and both types have a different effect on vision. Understanding the differences in macular degeneration types is an important way to monitor and preserve your vision.
Understanding the Impact of the Disease
Because macular degeneration leaves only the peripheral vision unaffected, it can have a serious impact on your ability to live independently. Faces may become blurred, and you may have trouble driving, reading, or performing other daily tasks.
Dry Macular Degeneration
Dry macular degeneration is the most common type, and it affects about 90% of sufferers. As the dry form progresses, the macular tissue begins to break down. Dry macular degeneration is characterized by the presence of drusen, which are yellow deposits made up of protein that form in the macula.
Wet Macular Degeneration
The wet form of macular degeneration is less common, but carries a greater risk of vision loss. In cases of wet macular degeneration, sufficient oxygen is not delivered to the macula. As a result, new abnormal blood vessels develop. These new vessels are typically fragile and weak, and prone to breaking. When they leak or bleed, the macula can become scarred, leading to rapid central vision loss.
What are My Treatment Options?
There is no cure for dry or wet macular degeneration, but you can slow the progression through certain treatments. If you suffer with dry macular degeneration, supplements like antioxidants and zinc have been found to be effective in slowing vision loss. Lifestyle changes, like including more fruits and vegetables in your diet, may also be recommended.
If you suffer with wet macular degeneration, laser surgery has been found to be effective in slowing its progression. This treatment seals leaking blood vessels and can prevent them from growing back. Intraocular injections similarly target abnormal blood vessel formation. Although the injections may need to be repeated, this option is relatively painless and can improve your chances of maintaining the current state of your vision.
Protecting Your Vision
Both types of macular degeneration can result in irreversible loss of vision. You should undergo regular examinations with your doctor to check for signs of macular degeneration, especially if you have a family history of the disease. Our doctors use advanced tools to check the health of the retina and macula. If you have been diagnosed, close monitoring with an experienced healthcare professional can help you determine if and when treatment is needed.