Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
Just because a health problem is a common issue does not mean that it is a simple issue. That is the case with dry macular degeneration1. It occurs in many people who are over the age of 50 and can result in a blurred or reduced central vision. The issue occurs as a result of the thinning of the macula, which is the part of the retina associated with your direct line of sight.
Some people may develop dry macular degeneration in one eye but it may eventually affect both eyes. It may also be progressive and could cause difficulties in reading, driving and even recognizing people you know. More than likely, however, you won't lose your entire eyesight.
It may be possible to delay vision loss associated with a dry macular degeneration through self-care and early detection.
Symptoms of Dry Macular Degeneration
The symptoms don't typically all occur at once and it may not include pain. Some of the symptoms include the following2:
- Visual distortions, such as straight lines seeming bent
- Reduced central vision in one or both eyes
- The need for brighter light when reading or doing close work
- Increased difficulty adapting to low light levels, such as when entering a dimly lit restaurant
- Increased blurriness of printed words
- Decreased intensity or brightness of colors
- Difficulty recognizing faces
In most cases, dry macular degeneration will affect both of the eyes. You may not notice changes in your vision if it occurs in only one eye because the good eye may be compensating. The condition also does not affect the peripheral vision so total blindness is not typically a problem.
There are two different types of age-related macular degeneration. In some cases, dry macular degeneration can progress to neovascular, or wet macular degeneration. This is when the blood vessels under the retina start to leak. Dry macular degeneration is more common and typically is slow to progress. When wet macular degeneration becomes a problem, it could result in serious and sudden changes in your vision.
When Should You See a Doctor?
Your doctor should be notified if you notice changes in your central vision or if your ability to see fine detail or colors is impaired.
These vision changes may indicate the onset of macular degeneration, especially if you are over 50.
What Causes Macular Degeneration?
The exact cause of dry macular degeneration is unknown. Some research shows that it could be associated with environmental and heredity factors. This could include your diet or if you smoke.
As the eye ages, the condition tends to develop. Dry macular degeneration has an effect on the part of the retina that is responsible for your direct line of sight, the macula. The tissue in the macula may break down and get thin over time.
Who is at Risk?
Various factors may be associated with the risk of developing dry macular degeneration, including the following:
- Age: This disease is most common in people over 50.
- Family history and genetics: This disease has a hereditary component. Researchers have identified several genes that are related to developing the condition.
- Race: Macular degeneration is more common in Caucasians.
- Smoking: Smoking cigarettes or being regularly exposed to smoke significantly increases your risk of macular degeneration.
- Obesity: Research indicates that being obese may increase your chance that early or intermediate macular degeneration will progress to the more severe form of the disease.
- Cardiovascular disease: If you have had diseases that affected your heart and blood vessels, you may be at higher risk of macular degeneration.
Are There Additional Complications?
If you have dry macular degeneration that has progressed to the loss of central vision, you are at a higher risk for social isolation and depression. Some people experience visual hallucinations with profound loss of vision, a condition known as Charles Bonnett syndrome4. Since dry macular degeneration can progress to wet macular degeneration, rapid vision loss may also occur.
Is It Possible to Prevent Dry Macular Degeneration?
It is possible to reduce your risk of developing dry macular degeneration. Along with having regular eye exams, consider the following:
- Manage your other medical conditions: For example, if you have cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure, take your medication and follow your doctor's instructions for controlling the condition.
- Don't smoke: Smokers are more likely to develop macular degeneration than are nonsmokers. Ask your doctor for help to stop smoking.
- Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly: If you need to lose weight, reduce the number of calories you eat and increase the amount of exercise you get each day.
- Choose a diet rich in fruits and vegetables: Choose a healthy diet that's full of a variety of fruits and vegetables. These foods contain antioxidant vitamins that reduce your risk of developing macular degeneration.
- Include fish in your diet: Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, may reduce the risk of macular degeneration. Nuts, such as walnuts, also contain omega-3 fatty acids.
- Take Eye Health Vitamins: The NATURELO AREDS 2 Eye Health Formula offers the best in eye care for people of all ages, with a broad array of eye-friendly vitamins, minerals, omega-3s, and antioxidants. The natural supplement helps alleviate eye fatigue and dry eyes while providing support for clear, sharp vision.
1. National Eye Institute: Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration
2. American Academy of Ophthalmology, What Is Macular Degeneration?, May. 10, 2019
3. Ocular Neovascularization: Clarifying Complex Interactions, 1998 Sep; 153(3): 665–670
4. Royal National Institute of Blind People: Charles Bonnet Syndrome