Macular degeneration can sneak up on you. It develops without any obvious signs or symptoms until it reaches the intermediate or late stages when vision loss becomes noticeable. Nearly 11 million people in the United States suffer with age-related macular degeneration, approximately the same number of people who have been diagnosed with all types of invasive cancer. Although there is no cure for the disease, there are steps you can take to slow its progression. Here is what you need to know.
What is macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration damages the light sensing cells in the macular that lies in the center of the retina. It causes vision loss in the center field of vision, the area needed to see things that are straight ahead.
There are two basic types of the disease, called wet and dry. Ninety percent of the cases are dry macular degeneration:
1. Wet: Fluid leaks from abnormal blood vessels in the eye into the macular.
2. Dry: There is no leaking of fluid in the eye.
3 steps you can take to slow macular degeneration
1: The most important step that you can take is to become aware of the gradual signs and symptoms of the disease so that you can seek treatment as early as possible. Some of the symptoms of macular degeneration include:
• Straight lines seem to be bent, and other visual distortions
• Reduced central vision
• Blurry words in print
• Difficulty seeing when driving
• Needing bright light for reading or hobbies such as knitting or crossword puzzles
• Difficulty recognizing faces
2: Make sure that you schedule regular, comprehensive eye exams. Once you are over the age of 60 you should have annual eye exams that include the dilation of the pupils to look for signs of macular degeneration. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist right away to discuss them and have a thorough eye exam.
Although there is no cure for the disease, doctors can develop a treatment plan that may slow the progression of it. Treatments can include medications, injections and laser therapy that can help to stop the leaking that causes wet macular degeneration. Vitamins have been shown to slow the progression of dry macular degeneration.
3: Practice a healthy lifestyle. Studies show that pursuing good health can help to prevent macular degeneration.
• Protect the eyes from prolonged exposure to the sun by wearing sunglasses with UV protection.
• Eat lots of green, leafy vegetables and follow a diet that is low in fat and high in antioxidants that can help to keep the eyes healthy.
• If you are overweight or obese lose weight to improve your overall health.
• Stop smoking.
These changes can help to improve your body’s health, which in turn improves the health of your eyes. Healthy eyes can help to ward off macular degeneration and if the disease does occur, healthy eyes can slow the disease.
If you develop macular degeneration and suffer vision loss, we are here to help. We specialize in helping our patients live a full life with the ability to participate fully in the activities of daily living. We enhance low vision with a wide variety of innovative medical devices. If you suffer from low vision, or have been told that nothing more can be done to enhance your vision, call us today.