People with extreme nearsightedness, or myopia, may experience myopic macular degeneration (MMD). This condition can lead to a gradual decrease in central vision.

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In people with myopia, the distance between the front and back of each eye is greater than average. This increased eyeball size makes it harder to focus on objects in the distance. Some people with this condition may be at greater risk of developing other eye conditions.

This article will review all there is to know about MMD, from signs and symptoms to the latest research.

MMD, also called degenerative myopia, is the leading cause of legal blindness.

The macula is a tiny region located in the center of the retina. When the retina stretches in people with myopia, it can cause the cells in the macula to degenerate.

If damage occurs to cells in the macula, individuals may experience a blind spot in their central vision. The resulting condition is called MMD.

The causes of MMD vary between individuals.

Excessive stretching can change the arrangement of photoreceptors within the eye. This can impact vision even before degeneration begins.

Changes in certain proteins can also occur as a result of eyeball elongation. Atypical collagen proteins, for example, can lead to a weaker eye structure and cause retinal degeneration.

Additionally, researchers believe that inflammatory conditions may contribute to MMD. Chronic inflammation in the eye tissue may further alter eye structure and function.

Although research links macular degeneration and myopia, not all people with myopia will experience macular degeneration.

During the early stages of MMD, people may experience few, if any, symptoms. A blurry spot in the central vision may eventually appear and worsen with time.

Other common symptoms may include:

  • wavy or distorted vision
  • difficulties perceiving color
  • trouble adjusting to sudden lighting changes
  • blank spots within the central vision

When to consult a specialist

People who experience unexpected vision changes should consult an eye specialist.

Changes in central vision, gray or blurry spots, or having trouble reading and recognizing people may all indicate MMD.

A specialist will perform a thorough exam and diagnostic tests to determine whether a person’s symptoms indicate MMD. They can then discuss the individual’s outlook and treatment options.

People with MMD may experience complications. For example, damage to the retina or scarring in the macula tissue may occur. MMD can lead to blindness in severe cases.

Individuals who receive a diagnosis of MMD should consult with a doctor to prevent any potential complications.

Each case of MMD is unique, and only a medical professional can provide an accurate assessment.

Older individuals and people with very severe myopia have a higher chance of developing MMD.

Research from 2022 suggests that genetics and a person’s environment can play a role in the development and severity of myopia. A family history of myopia increases an individual’s risk of nearsightedness. A person can also inherit changes to genes involved in eyesight.

Additionally, research indicates that spending more time outdoors helps prevent myopia and that modern, urban lifestyles may put individuals at risk of developing myopia and MMD.

There is currently no single cure for MMD. However, several different treatment options may help prevent vision loss among those who develop this condition.

People with MMD usually develop new blood vessels under the retina. These blood vessels can leak and worsen the effects of MMD. One of the most common treatments involves anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) injections. Anti-VEGF drugs may reduce new blood vessel growth, improve vision, and slow macular thickening.

Research also indicates that photodynamic therapy may help treat MMD. Read more about laser therapy for macular degeneration here.

A possible surgical procedure is posterior scleral reinforcement (PSR). The main objective of PSR is to slow down axial elongation, which occurs with myopia.

No one treatment protocol is right for everyone. Individuals with MMD should speak with a medical professional to explore the best treatment options for their unique case.

Managing the condition

Managing myopia early in life can help reduce the risk of developing MMD. Possible ways to do this include avoiding exposure to screens and emphasizing time spent outdoors.

Other treatments, such as atropine eye drops, can also help decrease myopia progression in children.

In mild cases of myopia, eyeglasses or contact lenses can improve eyesight. People with more severe myopia may elect to have surgery.

Monitoring the condition

Consistent, thorough eye exams can help detect vision changes early. Eye specialists recommend people with severe myopia and MMD have eye exams every year or more frequently if needed.

During an eye exam, a specialist can ensure that the eyes function correctly. They can also monitor any vision changes that develop gradually.

Individuals with severe myopia may be at greater risk for MMD. This condition can lead to vision changes or, in extreme cases, blindness.

Managing myopia early in life can help reduce the risk of developing MMD. Routine eye examinations with a specialist can also help detect vision problems in their earliest stages.

People who experience myopia should work with a medical professional to manage and monitor their condition over time. Consistent medical support can help manage myopia and reduce the long-term effects of MMD.