What is Macular Degeneration?
Macular Degeneration is an eye condition in which the macula, a sensitive area in the retina responsible for central and detail vision, is damaged, often causing loss of central vision. There is usually no treatment for the "dry" form of macular degeneration, but low vision rehabilitation can help those with significant vision loss to maintain an excellent quality of life. Laser surgery was formerly used to treat the "wet" form. Now the treatment of wet macular degeneration is performed by injection of medications into the eye that reduce the growth of the leaking retinal blood vessels that cause vision damage.
Types of Macular Degeneration
There is a great deal of research and several major scientific studies being conducted to find the causes and develop effective treatments for all types of macular degeneration. Visit the National Eye Institute Web site for additional information.
Who Gets It?
Most common in people over 60, but can appear as early as age 40. Macular degeneration is the most common cause of severe vision loss among people over 65, and, as life expectancy increases, the disease is becoming an increasingly significant problem.
Causes of Macular Degeneration
There is no conclusive proof as to what causes macular degeneration, however, some scientists believe heredity may play a part, as may UV light exposure and malnutrition. Be wary of any treatment that promises to restore vision, or cure or prevent macular degeneration. There are so many so-called "miracle cures" advertised (often in magazines or on the Internet) that have not been adequately tested for safety or efficacy. These treatments may be expensive and are generally not covered by insurance. If you are considering trying a new or untested treatment, make sure you talk to your ophthalmologist or optometrist to ensure they are safe and won't interfere with the timely and effective treatment of any eye problems.
Can Macular Degeneration Be Prevented?
Although there is no hard evidence as to how to prevent macular degeneration, these steps may help:
Rehabilitation may involve anything from adjusting the lighting in your home to learning to use low vision aids to help you read and perform daily tasks. Your eye care professional can arrange rehabilitation or refer you to organizations that can help.
Adjusting to vision loss can be difficult at first. Your eye care professional may be able to recommend some support groups for people with low vision. You can support friends and family by encouraging them in their rehabilitation efforts and providing help (such as rides to appointments) when needed.