What is Macular Degeneration?

Deteriorating vision can be thought of as a part of aging. A large part of that perception is due to the development of cataracts in people over age 60. But that is easily fixable with modern cataract surgery.

Unfortunately, the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over the age of 60 is actually macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration, as the name implies, is the deterioration of the macula, the central portion of the retina. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of the eye. Because macular degeneration develops as a person ages, the condition is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration. It rarely results in a person becoming totally blind, but it can significantly impact the quality of a person’s vision.

Although there isn’t a cure for macular degeneration, the key is early diagnosis and management. We diagnose and treat this sight-robbing condition at Wilkinson Eye Center.

Dry and wet forms

There are two basic types of macular degeneration.

Dry form — This is the more common form of macular degeneration. It is characterized by the presence of yellow deposits, called drusen, in the macula. A few small drusen may not impact the person’s vision. But as they grow in size and number, they can cause dimming or distortion of vision that people notice when they read. If the dry form advances, the disease can cause thinning of the light-sensitive layer of cells in the macula leading to tissue death. This is called the atrophic form of dry macular degeneration. Patients will develop blind spots in the center of their vision, or total loss of central vision.

Wet form — In the “wet form” of macular degeneration, abnormal blood vessels grow in the choroid underneath the macula. These blood vessels leak blood and fluid into the retina, causing distorted vision (lines become wavy), blind spots, and a loss of central vision. Vision loss occurs when these abnormal blood vessels bleed and eventually form a scar.

Symptoms of macular degeneration

In its early stages macular degeneration may not have any symptoms. It often progresses and affects both eyes before a person begins to notice changes. The first sign is a dim, blurry spot in the center of a person’s vision. The spot will likely get bigger and darker with time. Another symptom is diminished or changed color perception.

Regular exams are the key

Age-related macular degeneration can be detected in a routine eye exam at Wilkinson Eye Center. Since the presence of drusen is a common early sign, Dr. Wilkinson and our team can see these easily when examining your eyes. Early detection, as with most things, can dramatically impact the severity of the disease.

That’s why we stress the need for regular eye exams at either of our two locations in Pontiac and Clarkston, usually every other year for adults. When you reach age 50, they should become yearly. This isn’t simply an arbitrary thing. Often these diseases don’t show early symptoms until they are already damaging your vision. But we can see them during your eye exam.

Is it time for your next eye exam? Call us at Wilkinson Eye Center, (248) 334-4931, to make your next appointment.

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