Macular degeneration causes the slow loss of central vision over time but rarely causes complete blindness.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss for people over 50. It occurs when the macula becomes damaged over time. The macula is the central part of the retina. When it is damaged, a person’s central vision can become cloudy or less acute.
There are two types of macular degeneration: dry and wet. Most people develop dry degeneration, which is the less severe form. Wet macular degeneration can be more severe and lead to a faster decline in vision.
This article reviews how macular degeneration affects vision, prevention tips for vision loss, and treatments.
Macular degeneration often causes a slow deterioration in vision. It is a progressive disease, which means it will get worse over time.
In most cases, it
The disease can take several years to progress through various stages.
In many cases, a person will not notice any differences in their vision until the disease reaches the late stage. An optometrist or ophthalmologist may be able to identify the disease in earlier stages and can keep track of its development.
Those with severe forms may have additional changes to vision, including very noticeable central vision blurriness and decreased sharpness of shapes and colors.
Macular degeneration will affect people differently depending on the type they have and the severity of the disease.
People with dry macular degeneration
- Early: few or no symptoms
- Intermediate: slight blurriness in the central vision, while the peripheral vision remains clear
- Late: blurry central vision, diminished view of colors, straight lines appearing wavy or distorted, difficulty seeing in low light, or development of blank spots or increasing areas of blurriness
People with wet macular degeneration may notice that changes in their vision occur more rapidly. Otherwise, the symptoms are generally the same as in dry degeneration.
A person can take some steps to help prevent and reduce their risk of developing macular degeneration. Methods that may help include:
- maintaining a moderate weight
- limiting saturated fat intake and eating a generally nutritious diet
- eating a diet high in antioxidants
- taking steps to manage blood pressure
- avoiding or stopping smoking
- getting regular exercise
Limiting UV light exposure may also help. People can wear sunglasses and visors or hats to help reduce their exposure.
Even if a person takes preventive steps, they may still develop the disease.
People may have some risk factors that they cannot change. People have a higher risk of developing macular degeneration if they:
- are white
- are older than 50
- have a family history of the disease
People with increased risk factors for other eye diseases should see an eye doctor sooner and more often.
A person should consider seeing an optometrist for an eye examination and regular screenings starting at age 40 or sooner if they notice any changes in their vision. An eye exam can help detect signs of several eye conditions and may help preserve a person’s vision.
Currently, there is no cure for dry macular degeneration.
However, experts believe that nutrition may play a role in slowing the disease’s progression. A person may be able to adjust their diet in the early stages to prevent the disease from getting worse and to avoid losing part of their vision.
In cases of wet macular degeneration, a doctor may be able to provide effective treatment if they catch the disease early. Intraocular injections of anti-VEGF medications are a common form of treatment. A doctor may also recommend the use of nutritional supplements.
Macular degeneration does not cause complete blindness in the vast majority of people. However, it can cause blurry central vision, making it difficult to see objects directly in front of the eyes.
It is a progressive disease and often has no symptoms until the later stages. An eye doctor can screen for the disease. Doctors may recommend dietary changes and supplements to help prevent macular degeneration from developing or worsening in people with early stages of the disease or other known risk factors.
Once vision loss occurs, it is permanent, and there is no current treatment for late stage macular degeneration.