MACULAR DEGENERATION

Degradation of one's central vision is called macular degeneration. As the disease progresses the ability to distinguish fine detail diminishes. There are two types of macular degeneration, wet and dry. Dry macular degeneration is the most common type affecting 90% of the people who have the condition. In the dry form the underlying cells that provide support and nutrition to the macula begin to break down. This disrupts normal macular function and leads to the characteristic reduction of central vision and color perception. Wet macular degeneration is typically more severe than dry degeneration. Although it afflicts only 10 percent of those who have the condition, 90 percent of blindness resulting from macular degeneration comes from this form of the disease. In this type the membrane underlying the retina thickens, and then breaks. This disrupts the oxygen supply to the macula leading to a hypoxic state. The body responds to this lack of oxygen by growing new blood vessels in an attempt to restore adequate flow. These blood vessels are very fragile and tend to break and bleed causing the macula to detach.

Both types of macular degeneration cause no pain. The most common early signs are blurred or distorted vision. Another classic early symptom of both wet and dry macular degeneration is that straight lines appear crooked. As the disease progresses patients notice an enlarging blind spot in the middle of their field of vision.

The greatest risk factor for macular degeneration is age. Studies have found that people in middle-age have about a 2 percent risk of getting macular degeneration but this risk increases to nearly 30 percent in those over age 75. Other risk factors include gender, with women being at higher risk then men: race with Caucasian more likely to suffer vision loss than African Americans: smoking with smokers more susceptible and family history in the immediate family putting one at higher risk.

Treatment for dry macular degeneration is preventative use of antioxidant vitamins. Until recently treatment for wet macular degeneration was as detrimental as the disease using laser to photocoagulate the blood vessels leaving permanent scars. More promising therapies are now being tested with the use of anti-VEGF drugs that stop or slow the growth of the invading blood vessels.

The doctors at Nasa Vision Center have the latest technology, the Humphrey Cirrus, for monitoring your macula. This technology allows the doctors a three D view of the macula to detect any signs of macular degeneration. The doctors recommend yearly eye health evaluations.



  
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