Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among people aged 60 and older. Depending on the type of macular degeneration, early diagnosis and treatment may stop progression. This is why it is vital to have routine eye exams at the Eye Care Center of Kauai, in Lihue, Hawaii. Don’t wait to schedule an appointment so you can learn whether you’re at risk and the steps you can take to lower the chance of developing macular degeneration.

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What is age-related macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration, or age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is a common eye disease that develops in older adults. It affects the macula, which is a spot near the center of your retina that’s essential for central vision, or clearly seeing objects that are straight in front of you. While it doesn’t cause blindness, vision loss from macular degeneration can significantly interfere with your everyday activities, such as cooking, reading and driving.

There are two types of macular degeneration:

Wet macular degeneration
This form occurs when abnormal blood vessels leak blood and fluid into the macula, then the excess fluid causes damage and scarring. Wet macular degeneration often progresses rapidly, with vision loss sometimes occurring within days or weeks.

Dry macular degeneration
The dry form is more common, representing 70-90% of all cases of macular degeneration. It develops as the macula thins due to aging, which damages cells in the macula that are essential for vision. It progresses more slowly than wet macular degeneration.

Are you at risk for age-related macular degeneration?

The more risk factors you match, the higher your chance of developing macular degeneration. However, changing lifestyle factors, like losing weight and stopping smoking can significantly lower your risk.

  • Age: The biggest risk factor for macular degeneration; affects one-third of adults over 75
  • Smoking: Increases your risk two- to five-fold
  • Family history: Genetics increase your risk
  • Gender: Women have a higher risk than men
  • Race: Caucasians have a higher risk than other ethnicities
  • Obesity: More than doubles the risk
  • High blood pressure: Like smoking, constricts blood vessels that nourish the eye

What are the symptoms of macular degeneration?

One of the earliest signs of wet macular degeneration is visual distortion, such as looking at a line that you know is straight, yet it appears wavy or bent. Other signs that develop in both types include:

  • Blurry central vision: Close up and far away
  • Area of affected vision gets larger over time
  • Blind spots may develop
  • Difficulty seeing colors and fine detail

How is age-related macular degeneration treated?

For wet macular degeneration, your doctor at the Eye Care Center of Kauai may recommend medications that can help stop the growth of blood vessels. Laser treatment may also be considered to stop bleeding.

While future breakthroughs may introduce medications for dry macular degeneration, treatments for the dry form currently don’t exist. Your doctor at the Eye Care Center of Kauai may recommend a special mix of nutrients and antioxidants that show potential for slowing down the progression of dry macular degeneration.