One of the most important reasons for regular examinations by your eye care provider is evaluate for the development of macular degeneration. According to the Bright Focus™ Foundation, this condition is the primary cause of loss of vision and blindness in older individuals ages 60 and above and is known under these circumstances as age-related macular degeneration.
Studies conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) indicate that 10 to 15 million Americans have a diagnosis of age-related macular degeneration. Moreover, macular degeneration is a world-wide problem as the second most frequent cause of irreversible blindness globally.
When we think of our "eyes," we usually imagine the outer eye anatomy with the round pupil and white sclera. Eyesight -- or the lack of it -- is more often caused by damage to the retina in the back of the eye. The center of the retina is call the macula. The macula processes signals that allow us to see straight ahead and with clarity, color, contrast and detail.
Types of Macular Degeneration
The science of optometry and ophthalmology, classify macular degeneration into one of two types: dry or wet. Diagnoses can change from one type to the other.
• Dry Macular Degeneration
This type of damage is the most common form, accounting for approximately 90 percent of macular degeneration diagnoses. Yellow-colored metabolic waste products known as drusen collect beneath the retina, causing a painless but progressive damage and cell death to retinal cells. This form of the disease usually progresses more slowly than does the wet form, however, its ultimate result can be devastating: sufferers may be left without any central version. Imagine a large dark spot in your central vision. Peripheral vision is all that may remain, markedly impairing or preventing normal activities of daily living such as driving, reading, watching television, cooking and any work that requires small, detail-oriented work.
• Wet Macular Degeneration
Wet macular degeneration makes up only 10 percent of this condition's diagnoses but is the culprit in legal blindness 90 percent of the time. In this form of the disease, the body attempts to make up for the death of retinal cells by growing new, but fragile, blood vessels behind the macula. Leaking blood vessels can further impair sight and cause permanent scarring of the macula. Symptoms of the damage are similar to that of dry macular degeneration, however, its progress can take place rapidly.
How Can I Avoid Macular Degeneration?
What causes a person to develop macular degeneration is not fully understood, but there are some well-known risk factors. Smoking cigarettes is highly linked to macular degeneration, increasing the your risk by 2.5 times. There is also a hereditary link, which means that if a close family member has the disease, you may be more likely to develop it.
There a re many eye vitamins available over-the-counter to promote the health of the macula. Vitamins with an AREDS 2 formula are known to reduce the risk of developing the wet form of macular degeneration in those with moderate to sever disease. No sufficient studies have been performed to determine if taking these vitamins for healthy eyes or eyes with mild disease is beneficial.