More than 2 million Americans age 50 and older have advanced age related macular degeneration. The most common form of the disease is dry macular degeneration. It is chronic and causes a loss of vision in the center of the field of vision – a deterioration of the macula in the retina’s center. Another type of the disease is wet macular degeneration which is caused by leaking blood vessels under the retina. Although we don’t know what causes this eye disease, it develops as the eyes age and can occur in one or both eyes. Over the years, the tissue in the macula can become increasingly and eventually break down.
Risk factors for macular degeneration are:
• Aging – especially over 65
• Family history
• Race- the disease is more common in Caucasian people
• Poor diet
• High cholesterol
• Heart disease
A few of these risk factors are uncontrollable, but most are, such as; eating a healthier diet- fruits, vegetables, fish, quit smoking, losing weight and exercising – all important for lowering cholesterol and increasing heart health.
If you notice these changes in your vision, they may be symptoms of dry macular degeneration and you should make an appointment with your eye doctor. These changes develop gradually and include:
• Blurred, haziness or blind spot in center of your vision field
• Difficulty recognizing faces
• Blurriness of words on a page or screen
• Impaired ability to see details and/or colors
• Advanced stages may produce hallucinations of faces or geometric shapes
The effects of macular degeneration on a person’s quality of life are gradual at first and become more dramatic as more vision is lost. If your are diagnosed with macular degeneration your eye doctor will advise you on what stage of the disease you are in and prescribe medication/drops, vitamins and supplements, make other recommendations, especially about diet and possibly surgery.