Macular degeneration is common among older people and is a leading cause of blindness in those over 60. This condition affects the macula, which is a part of the retina. The macula provides the light sensitivity that is crucial for vision. In order for the macula to function properly, it needs nutrients from blood. In people with macular degeneration, the blood vessels, which supply those nutrients, quit working properly because of the thinning of the retinal pigment epithelium, which can happen with age.
There are two types of macular degeneration: dry and wet. These are distinguished by the way in which they affect the rods and cones within the macula.
- Dry Macular Degeneration: With dry macular degeneration, the cells of the retinal pigment epithelium can no longer dispose of the waste products from the macula.
- Wet Macular Degeneration: In someone with wet macular degeneration, new blood vessels begin to grow behind the macula. These new blood vessels allow blood to build up, which stops the proper nutrients from getting to the macula. The macular rods and cones are then damaged, ultimately resulting in loss of vision. Wet macular degeneration most often starts with dry macular degeneration.
Risk Factors for Macular Degeneration
Researchers have found some connections between certain conditions and the likelihood of developing macular degeneration. Some of conditions or factors cannot be avoided. For instance, gender (women are more likely than men to develop macular degeneration), age, family history, eye color (people with light eyes are at a higher risk). There are controllable factors as well. The amount of fat around your midsection, antioxidant levels, exposure to sunlight, cholesterol, and smoking all are factors that play a role in determining your risk of developing macular degeneration.
Macular Degeneration Treatment
Although macular degeneration cannot be fully cured, there are treatments available that can slow the vision loss associated with this condition. At Palm Peach Eye Center, our doctors (Jay S. Wallshein, M.D., M.A., Paul E. Pataky, M.D., and Yissell Sanchez, O.D.) are specialists in treating macular degeneration. If you have symptoms of macular degeneration or are seeking treatment please make an appointment today.