Macular degeneration is a degeneration of the retina (The film of the eye) with age. Most people with macular degeneration begin to notice a change in their eyesight sometime after the age of 50. It has a genetic or hereditary component so it may run in families, but it also has been shown to be related to sun exposure and diet.
Your doctor first notices the disease as spots on the retina called drusen. Drusen alone do not affect your vision much, in fact most patients with drusen have normal vision and only a few develop severe macular degeneration. When it starts, loss of vision is usually in one eye and only later may affect the other eye. A person with severe macular degeneration looses their central vision but, is not completely blind. The peripheral vision remains intact. Almost all patients, even those with severe macular degeneration in both eyes, see well enough to take care of themselves and continue daily activities that do not require detail vision.
There are two types of Macular Degeneration. A dry form and a wet form. Dry macular degeneration is much more common. In the dry form vision loss can be difficult to notice and it gets worse very slowly. While there is no way to restore lost vision from dry macular degeneration (at this time), you must still monitor your vision because it can turn into wet macular degeneration.
The earlier you detect any change in vision from macular degeneration the better the chance that treatment will help.
A good way to test for worsening of macular degeneration is to use an Amsler grid daily. If you note any changes on the grid call your eye doctor immediately. If the lines on the grid become wavy or distorted this maybe a sign you are developing the wet form of macular degeneration. Wet Macular Degeneration only occurs in 15% of people with macular degeneration. It is an abnormal growth of blood vessels under the retina. These vessels leak blood or fluid under the retina, when this happens your vision becomes distorted. You can detect this on the Amsler grid. In the early stages, laser treatment has proven to be effective in preventing further visual loss in a some people.
Things you can do:
1. Get a regular eye exam.
2. Use sunglasses with UV protection.
3. Eat a good diet.
4. If you are diagnosed with macular degeneration, use the Amsler grid daily. Call for a prompt visit if changes on the grid occur.