Types of Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration, commonly known as age-related macular degeneration, is the leading cause of blindness and vision loss in individuals 65 and older. This eye disease primarily affects the central vision and severity of blindness and/or loss of vision can vary depending on how advanced the macular degeneration is. If left unchecked, macular degeneration can complete its progression from the early, dry stage to the wet, neovascular stage in which new blood vessels form and leak fluid into the eye.
As the disease progresses, patients may notice several changes in their vision.
Patients with the dry form of the disease may show no outward symptoms of macular degeneration. Deposits of drusen - formed from deteriorating tissue in the macula and other areas - can begin to accumulate in the eye without affecting a patient's vision. A qualified specialist can recognize these early symptoms of dry macular degeneration and suggest steps that may slow or halt its progression.
Blurry or Distorted Central Vision
As more and more tissue deteriorates in the macula and the rest of the retina, the patient may begin to experience blurry or shadowy vision, though the vision loss is not nearly as severe in the dry stages of the disease as in the later, wet stages. Patients experiencing macular degeneration progression should seek medical attention immediately, as there is still a chance that vision loss may be slowed, stopped, or even reversed slightly.
Complete Loss of Central Vision
The last (and most severe) phase of macular degeneration progression is the wet stage. During this phase, the body attempts to compensate for the deterioration of the macula by growing new blood vessels in the area. These blood vessels, and the blood and fluid that can leak from them, cause irreparable damage to the macula and resulting in a permanent loss of central vision.
Types of Macular Degeneration
There are a few different type of macular degeneration.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
For people over the age of 60, age-related macular degeneration is the most common cause of severe vision loss. This disease affects an individual's central vision, which makes it difficult to drive, read, and complete several daily activities.
Age-related macular degeneration occurs when the center of the retina (the macula) degenerates causing the central vision to deteriorate. Rather than seeing the whole picture, an individual with age-related macular degeneration would see a dark or blind area in the central field of vision. Eventually, complete vision loss or blindness can occur.
Age-related macular degeneration is a scary possibility for many seniors as it could lead to greater dependence on others. However, there are several treatments available for age-related macular degeneration including medication and possible surgery. Many people can and have lived with this disease and educating yourself on the causes, symptoms and treatment will better prepare you if vision loss occurs due to age-related macular degeneration.
Dry Macular Degeneration
Approximately 90 percent of age-related macular degeneration sufferers have dry macular degeneration, an early stage of this disease. Central vision loss can occur with dry macular degeneration, however, it is not nearly as severe as it is in the wet form.
Though scientists are not sure what causes dry macular degeneration, they speculate that a part of the retina becomes diseased and leads to the destruction of the light-sensing cells in the macula. Aging and thinning of macular tissues can also lead to dry macular degeneration.
Advanced Wet Macular Degeneration
About 10 percent of people are affected with an advanced type of age-related macular degeneration known as wet macular degeneration. This form of the disease is more advanced and damaging than dry macular degeneration because it leads to the formation of new blood vessels within the eye that leak fluid and blood under the macula. This fluid leakage damages the macula and leads to vision loss in a short amount of time.
Wet forms of macular degeneration can be divided into two groups:
- Classic Wet Macular Degeneration: Associated with more severe vision loss. Occurs when growth of the blood vessels has clear outlines that can be seen beneath the retina.
- Occult Wet Macular Degeneration: In this type of advanced macular degeneration, leakage and growth behind the retina is not as evident, producing less severe vision loss.
Wet macular degeneration accounts for 90 percent of all blindness in age-related macular degeneration cases. Treatments such as surgery and medication are options for individual's that suffer from this advanced form of macular degeneration.
Find a Doctor
The information about advanced, wet, and dry age-related macular degeneration is designed to provide patients with an overview of this eye disease. An eye exam by a physician in your area is recommended to determine type and treatment for age-related macular degeneration. DocShop can provide you with a list of physicians in your community, find an ophthalmologist today.