Drusen are deposits of fats, proteins, and cellular waste that build up under the retina. While drusen do not cause macular degeneration, they increase the risk of a person developing the condition.
The retina is a layer of cells that line the back wall inside the eye. It detects light and transmits this information to the brain for vision to occur.
A component of the retina is the macula, which controls sharp central vision. It allows people to see what is in front of them, such as faces and written words.
When the macula becomes thinner, and drusen accumulate under the retina, it increases the risk of a person developing age-related macular degeneration and is a likely sign of the condition. This condition is the
This article will explore drusen and how it affects vision, the causes and risk factors for drusen deposits, and macular degeneration.
It will also explore symptoms, how a doctor diagnoses drusen deposits, and what treatment options are available.
Drusen, or drusen bodies, are
Drusen vary in size and number. They include:
- hard drusen, which are small, round, and well-defined deposits
- soft drusen, which are larger, poorly defined, and have mound-like elevations
- cuticular drusen, which are identical to hard drusen but more numerous and frequently aggregate together to form larger drusen deposits
Drusen deposits do not typically cause symptoms. A person may experience symptoms if they have macular degeneration, such as:
- blurry vision
- difficulty in vision when going from bright to low light
- a blank and blurry spot in their central vision
Macular degeneration occurs when there is damage to the macula. This condition causes loss of central vision, but the peripheral vision is left unaffected.
There are two types of macular degeneration:
- Dry: This type of macular degeneration accounts for
80%of cases. The macula becomes thinner over time, and drusen deposits grow under the retina, causing a person to slowly lose their central vision.
- Wet: In wet macular degeneration, new abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina. The vessels may leak fluids, such as blood, and cause macula scarring.
A person will lose vision faster with wet macular degeneration than with the dry type.
The location of the drusen also determines the risk to vision. For example, there is a greater risk of macular degeneration if drusen deposits are in the macula or the central region of the retina compared to the peripheral retina.
Hard drusen may not cause any visual problems in a person. However, larger soft drusen may cause vision problems and the presence of more drusen. The risk of progression to macular degeneration is
Researchers believe that larger drusen deposits
Drusen in dry macular degeneration can cause loss of central vision and may make it more difficult for a person to see fine details.
The risk of developing macular degeneration
Other risk factors include:
- older age, typically over the age of 50
- high blood pressure — hypertension
- a family history of macular degeneration
- a diet high in saturated fat
- high cholesterol levels
- having heart disease
A person will normally find out if they have drusen during a routine eye exam carried out by an ophthalmologist — an eye doctor specializing in vision and eye health.
If the ophthalmologist finds larger drusen, they may ask a person to look at an Amsler grid. This grid helps a person identify any blurry or blank spots in their field of vision.
The doctor may also request additional tests such as optical coherence tomography (OCT), which scans the retina and provides a detailed image.
A fluorescence angiography involves injecting a yellow dye into the body that travels to the eye and shows any abnormal blood vessels growing under the retina.
Learn how doctors diagnose macular degeneration here.
There is currently no treatment for dry macular degeneration.
The National Eye Institute conducted the
Supplements may help people with advanced stages of macular degeneration.
The first AREDS study supported the use of the following supplements:
The AREDS2 study used the same formula but
Overall, there were no differences in results between the AREDS and AREDS2 studies.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology also notes that laser treatment does not significantly reduce the rate of progression or severity of AMD.
A person with wet macular degeneration may receive anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) drugs. These drugs help lower the number of abnormal blood vessels appearing in the retina. They may also benefit from laser surgery which may reduce the number of blood vessels and slow the leaking.
Learn whether macular degeneration is reversible here.
Drusen deposits occur naturally with aging, and a person cannot prevent them from developing.
However, a person can slow the progression of macular degeneration by regularly visiting their eye doctor and making lifestyle changes. For example, a person can
- eating foods such as green leafy vegetables and fish
- regularly exercising
- quitting smoking
- maintaining moderate blood pressure levels
Learn whether taking supplements can prevent or slow down macular degeneration here.
Drusen deposits do not cause symptoms in a person. However, macular degeneration may cause blurry vision and blank and blurry spots in a person’s central vision.
A person will need to see an eye doctor who can determine if they have drusen deposits or advanced stages of macular degeneration.
A person is not able to prevent drusen from forming under the retina. However, a person can reduce their likelihood of progressing to the advanced stage of macular degeneration by making lifestyle changes, such as eating a balanced diet, quitting smoking, and consuming certain supplements.