What Is the Macula?
Do you or someone you love have macular degeneration? Although you may have questions, the eye doctors at North Georgia Eye Associates are here to treat this and other eye conditions.
The thin inner layer of the eye is called the retina. It is like the “camera film” of the eye. The central portion of the retina that allows you to see detailed vision, such as reading and recognizing people’s faces, is called the macula.
The rest of the retina allows for “side vision” but cannot distinguish fine detail. A person without good macular function can walk around without bumping into things and take care of their daily needs, such as bathing, cooking, and eating. However, they cannot read a newspaper, recognize the details of someone’s face, or see highway signs while driving.
What Is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is a deterioration of the deepest layers of the retina in the macula. Macular degeneration is usually associated with aging and is often called age-related macular degeneration. The deterioration of the macula is related to a build-up of oxidants and other metabolic waste products in the pigmented layer of the retina. Over time, this layer degenerates and forms what is called drusen.
As more drusen form, macular function decreases, and vision becomes blurry. In some cases, the pigmented layer loses its ability to function. Small gaps in vision develop and eventually enlarge to cause more severe vision loss. Drusen development and lack of function in the macula’s pigmented layer is called dry macular degeneration.
Small breaks in the layer between the retina and the vascular middle layer of the eye (choroid) can develop in the most severe form of macular degeneration. These breaks allow abnormal blood vessels to develop and grow underneath the retina.
These vessels hemorrhage and scar, causing rapid and severe loss of macular function and central vision. This is called wet macular degeneration.
Reducing Your Risk for Macular Degeneration
The top 5 risk factors for AMD are:
People with two of these risk factors should schedule an appointment. We can recommend steps to reduce your risk of vision loss.
Are There Any Symptoms of Macular Degeneration?
People at risk should know the symptoms of wet AMD, the form most likely to cause rapid and severe vision loss. Symptoms of wet AMD include:
If you think you may have experienced these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor as soon as possible.
Treatment for dry macular degeneration consists of vitamin supplements and close surveillance for visual changes. The AREDS vitamin formula is available over the counter and can reduce the risk of dry macular degeneration progressing to the wet form.
The wet form of macular degeneration has many new treatments recently approved by the FDA. These treatments range from lasers to medications injected in or around the eye.
Macular degeneration is a complicated disease, but its effects can be significantly reduced with motivation and patience. Early treatment and preventative measures can help slow down the condition, and low vision rehabilitation can help people to lead an independent lifestyle.