Affecting more Americans than glaucoma and cataracts combined, macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. Though there’s no cure for the condition, there are steps you can take to reduce risk or limit the progress of the disease. Dr. Edward Fries and his team at Decatur Eye Center in Decatur, Texas, can help you manage your macular degeneration and reduce the chances for vision loss. Call the office today or schedule an appointment online.

Macular Degeneration Q & A

by Edward H. Fries, MS, OD

What is macular degeneration?

The central portion of the retina, called the macula, reproduces the central portion of your eyesight. Whenever you look directly at something, reading a book or viewing a computer monitor for instance, the area upon which you focus falls on the macula for processing by the brain. This gives you the ability to see things in fine detail.

When the macula begins to deteriorate there are, at first, no symptoms. But eventually your sight may seem blurred or wavy, even with corrective lenses, and this may develop into the complete loss of central vision. Though someone with advanced macular degeneration can still see around the periphery, they become legally blind due to vision loss in the central, detailed viewing area.

What causes macular degeneration?

The reasons why macular degeneration occurs isn’t known, though there are several factors that increase your risk of developing the disease. Age is the most common risk factor, and the condition has a genetic risk as well. If macular degeneration runs in your family, then your chances of developing it increases. Race plays a role, as Caucasians develop the disease more often than those of other races, and smokers have twice the chance of developing problems compared with nonsmokers.

In addition, there are two types of macular degeneration, so-called “dry” and “wet” types. The dry form amounts to more than eight out of ten cases of the disease, with the wet form representing the balance. Dry macular degeneration is referred to medically as atrophic. Deposits form behind the macula, leading to its deterioration. Wet macular degeneration involves irregular blood vessels interfering with the macula and disrupting its ability to form images.

How is macular degeneration treated?

There’s no cure for either type of macular degeneration, and any vision damage caused by the disease is permanent. There are ways to slow the progression of the condition or to reduce your risk, including:

  • Smoking: Quitting reduces your risk
  • Exposure to ultraviolet light: Avoiding direct sunlight and wearing UV-filtering sunglasses helps reduce its effects
  • Altering your diet: Including more eye-friendly vitamins and nutrients may also slow macular degeneration