The macula, which is located in the central region of the retina behind the eye, is responsible for clear vision. It is needed to discern colors, notice contrast, read, write, and appreciate fine details. Macular degeneration is the ineffective functioning of the macula. This disorder can be caused by either broken blood vessels that increase fluids in the eye or dried and degenerated cells in the eye.
There are two kinds of macular degeneration: wet and dry. When abnormal blood vessels develop behind the macula, wet macular degeneration occurs. For dry macular degeneration to occur, the macular cells degenerate and break, causing macular function disturbance.
Macular degeneration symptoms include:
- Seeing distorted images.
- Blurred vision due to an inability to identify contrast
- Diminished ability to identify the intensity of colors
- Fluid or blood in the eye
- Yellow deposits in the retina
Macular degeneration can be diagnosed based on a visual acuity test. This measures the eyes’ sensitivity to distances. Another test, tonometry, measures the pressure in the eye. The physician also preforms a dilated eye exam where the retina and optic nerves are examined for symptoms of macular degeneration.
An effective test for macular degeneration is the Amsler Grid, a macular degeneration symptoms grid. This grid is like a checkerboard with a black dot. A person with age related macular degeneration will see a distorted grid and a broader black spot.
Symptoms of wet AMD can be treated with photodynamic therapy or laser surgery. In photodynamic therapy, a drug is injected into the arm. It travels to the eye and sticks to the swollen or leaky blood vessels. The eye is then exposed to light of a certain wavelength. This process drains out excess fluid and restores vision. Continued medication can prevent reformation of wet AMD.
Dry AMD can be treated only if detected in early stages. In advanced or intermediate stages, AREDS drugs can be used to prevent worsening of the condition. AREDS drugs are a combination of high doses of zinc, copper, vitamins, beta carotene, and vitamin C.
It may be possible to prevent macular degeneration by avoiding fatty foods, eating a healthy diet rich in leafy vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, fish and meat, and drinking plenty of water. Maintaining a healthy weight and strong immunity may also help prevent age related macular degeneration.
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