Macular degeneration is a term that most people have heard before, but many don’t realize just how common it actually is. Macular degeneration (or age-related macular degeneration) is the leading cause of vision loss among adults over 50. The condition affects approximately 10 million Americans, which, fun fact, is more than glaucoma and cataracts combined. It’s also been said that approximately 196 million people will potentially be diagnosed with it by the year 2020.
So, what is Macular Degeneration and how does it affect your sight? The condition causes a breakdown in the macula, a small area in the retina that is critical in seeing fine details clearly. This breakdown impacts the central vision—which is required for tasks like reading and driving—leading to problems like blurriness and distortion.
There are actually two types of macular degeneration: the dry form, which is the most common form, and the wet form. The dry form is caused by aging and the thinning of macula tissues and generally, leads to gradual vision loss. The wet form accounts for just about 10% of all cases and happens when abnormal blood vessels leak fluid or blood, causing blind spots. Dr. Semple says, “The wet form is actually a complication of the dry form and superimposes itself onto the aging dry degeneration. The wet form is typically much more advanced, leading to a quicker and more severe vision loss.”
While age is usually a major risk factor in getting macular degeneration, there are other risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing it, such as smoking, family history, genetics, and race. In fact, macular degeneration is more common among Caucasians than other heritages.
While much is known about this common disease, there are many myths to avoid.
Myth #1: It can lead to blindness.
This is not always the case. There are many treatments available help prevent the disease from progressing, including basic lifestyle changes. Macular degeneration happens much less to those who avoid smoking, exercise regularly, maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and eat a healthy diet rich in green leafy vegetables and fish.
Myth #2: It’s only for old people.
While macular degeneration is typically seen in adults over the age of 50, it can be diagnosed in someone as young as 20.
Myth #3: You’ll know if you have it.
Oftentimes, macular degeneration isn’t noticeable in the early stages of the disease. In fact, most people won’t experience any vision loss, making regular eye exams so critical.
Myth #4: It can’t be treated.
While there is currently no cure for macular degeneration, certain types of the disease can be treated with medications that block the growth of abnormal blood vessels. With current treatments, useful vision can be maintained in patients with the wet form of macular degeneration, says Dr. Semple.
At Premier Medical, we understand that vision loss is a difficult, life-changing experience. We can help you reduce its progression to keep your eyes as healthy as possible and protect your vision. Give us a call today.