Dry Macular Degeneration
What is dry macular degeneration?
Dry macular degeneration is a common eye disorder that affects adults over the age of 50. It occurs when the macula, which is a part of the retina and is responsible for clear vision in a straight line of sight, wears down, causing blurry or reduced central vision.
Dry macular degeneration may first appear in one eye and then affect both eyes. Over time, vision worsens and affects the ability to do certain activities, such as reading and driving or even recognizing faces. This vision deterioration does not mean losing sight altogether.
What are the symptoms of dry macular degeneration?
Symptoms of dry macular degeneration usually develop gradually without causing any pain.
They may include:
- Visual distortions (impaired vision)
- Decreased central vision in one or both eyes
- The need for bright light when reading or doing close-up work
- Vision difficulties in dimly lit places
- Decreased color intensity or brightness
- Difficulty recognizing faces
- Increased blurriness of printed words
Dry macular degeneration usually affects both eyes. If one eye is affected, you may not notice any changes in vision because your healthy eye can compensate for the vision deterioration of the affected eye. Dry macular degeneration does not affect the peripheral vision, nor does it cause total blindness on its own.
You should visit an ophthalmologist as soon as you notice changes in your central vision or ability to recognize colors and small details.
What is the cause of dry macular degeneration?
The exact cause of dry macular degeneration remains to be known. However, research suggests that the disease may be linked to a combination of genetic and environmental factors, including smoking and diet.
What are the risk factors of dry macular degeneration?
- Age. Macular degeneration is more common in people over the age of 50.
- Genetics. Macular degeneration has a genetic component, and researchers have identified many genes associated with the condition.
- Race. Macular degeneration affects Caucasians more than any other race.
- Smoking. Tabaco smoking or frequent exposure to smoke increases the risk of developing macular degeneration.
- Obesity. Research suggests that obesity may increase the chances of worsening early or moderate macular degeneration into a more severe condition.
- Cardiovascular diseases. If you have diseases that affect your heart and blood vessels, your risk of developing macular degeneration may increase.
How is dry macular degeneration diagnosed?
Our ophthalmologist will review your medical and family history and perform a complete eye exam. They may also perform several other tests, including:
- Examine the back of the eye. Your ophthalmologist will put drops in the eyes to dilate the pupils and use special tools to examine the back of the eye. They will look for a mottled appearance caused by yellow deposits that form under the retina (drusen). People with macular degeneration usually have a lot of drusen.
- Detect any defects in your central vision. During this test, your ophthalmologist may use an Amsler grid to check for defects in your central vision. Straight lines in the grid may look faded, broken, or blurred if macular degeneration is present.
- Angiography. During the test, your ophthalmologist will inject a colored dye into a vein in your arm. The dye travels to and highlights the blood vessels in your eyes. A special camera takes several pictures as the dye travels through the blood vessels in your retina. The images will show if there are new blood vessels or blood leakage in the macula.
How is dry macular degeneration treated?
There is no cure for dry macular degeneration. If you are diagnosed early, you can take steps to help slow its progress, such as taking vitamin supplements, having a healthy diet, and avoiding smoking.
Dry macular degeneration does not affect peripheral vision and usually does not cause total blindness. However, it can significantly reduce or eliminate your central vision, which is crucial for driving, reading, and recognizing people’s faces. It may be helpful for you to work with our ophthalmologist. They can help and advise you on the best ways to adapt to your changing vision.