Age-related macular degeneration is the result of several complex risk factors coming together. Some risk factors are controllable. These would include things like smoking, being overweight, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, as well as long-term sun exposure without proper eye protection.
What Is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration causes severe and irreversible vision loss. It is primarily seen in individuals age 60 and older. As the name implies, the disease causes the macula, a small center part of the retina, to deteriorate. The retina is the light sensing nerve tissue at the back of the eye.
Macular degeneration is present in a dry form and wet form. With the dry form, there are yellow deposits, known as drusen, present in the macula. If there is just a small amount of drusen, it will not necessarily affect a person’s vision. However, as the amount of drusen increases, people start to experience a dimming of their vision or a distortion of their vision.
Dry macular degeneration is most noticeable when a person reads. As the disease advances, it can lead to the death of the eye tissue. When this happens, patients start to see blind spots in the center of their vision. As the disease progresses, an individual may completely lose their center vision.
The wet form of macular degeneration is caused by the abnormal growth of blood vessels underneath the macula. The blood vessels leak blood fluid on the retina. This leads to a distortion of the vision. When a person is experiencing this form of the disease, straight lines appear to be wavy. They may also develop blind spots in their central vision. With time, these abnormal leaky blood vessels lead to the formation of scar tissue, which causes the loss of central vision.
Who Is at Greatest Risk of Developing This Condition?
Smokers are at risk of developing AMD. They are between two and five times as likely to get the disease as opposed to a non-smoker. This is because the retina needs a lot of oxygen. Smoking affects the oxygen delivery to the retina, which can lead to the development of this disease.
Age is the primary factor. One in three adults over the age of 75 has AMD.
Women are more likely to develop AMD than men. Also, Caucasians are more at risk of developing this disease as others. This may be due in part to differences in their genetic makeup or their skin and eye pigmentation.
Macular degeneration can be a life altering disease. Would you like to learn more about steps that you may be able to take to prevent it? Dr. Reena Patel at Wichita Vision Institute would be more than happy to meet with you to discuss this condition in more detail. Dr. Patel’s office is conveniently located in Wichita, KS. Contact us today to schedule your consultation!