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What is macular degeneration?

Located in the center of the retina, the macula provides us with sight in the center of our field of vision. When we look directly at something, the macula allows us to see the fine details. This sharp, straight-ahead vision is necessary for driving, reading , recognizing faces, and doing close work, such as sewing.

The two common types of macular degeneration are “dry” and “wet.” The “dry” form accounts for 90% of cases and is caused by aging and thinning of the tissues of the macula. It develops slowly and usually causes mild vision loss. People often notice a dimming of vision when they read.

“Wet” macular degeneration is a much greater threat to vision loss even though it accounts for only 10% of cases. New blood vessels can grow beneath the retina where they leak fluid and blood and can create a large blind spot in the center of your visual field. If this happens, there will be a marked disturbance of vision.

Although it's more common for people over 60, it is possible to develop symptoms in your 40's or 50's. Macular degeneration often runs in families.

How is Macular Degeneration Treated?

Unfortunately, the cause of macular degeneration is unknown. Although we will be able to readily detect the disease during an eye exam, we will not be able to cure it. The goal is to help you see better and stabilize the condition. There is no proven treatment for dry macular degeneration, but it is now known that antioxidants and zinc supplements may help prevent the development of the more severe “wet” type macular degeneration.

Out-patient laser surgery may be an option for people with more severe “wet” type macular degeneration. The laser beam is used to destroy the abnormal blood vessels and works best when these vessels have not progressed and grown to an advanced stage under the macula. This is why early diagnosis is critical.

Even though people who have macular degeneration experience mild to severe vision loss, peripheral, or side vision, is not affected. One does not go blind. With the help of low vision aids, people can continue to enjoy many of their favorite activities and can still lead normal, independent lives.

How is Macular Degeneration Treated?

Unfortunately, the cause of macular degeneration is unknown. Although we will be able to readily detect the disease during an eye exam, we will not be able to cure it. The goal is to help you see better and stabilize the condition. There is no proven treatment for dry macular degeneration, but it is now known that antioxidants and zinc supplements may help prevent the development of the more severe “wet” type macular degeneration.

Out-patient laser surgery may be an option for people with more severe “wet” type macular degeneration. The laser beam is used to destroy the abnormal blood vessels and works best when these vessels have not progressed and grown to an advanced stage under the macula. This is why early diagnosis is critical.

Even though people who have macular degeneration experience mild to severe vision loss, peripheral, or side vision, is not affected. One does not go blind. With the help of low vision aids, people can continue to enjoy many of their favorite activities and can still lead normal, independent lives.

Why is Amsler Grid testing important?

It is important to detect a problem or change in vision at the earliest opportunity. The chance of saving eyesight is greater if detected early. The Amsler Grid is the best eye test to detect small changes in vision. You should call our office immediately if you detect any new changes!

Proper use of the Amsler Grid

  1. Wear your reading glasses and hold this grid at 12-15 inches in good light.
  2. Cover one eye.
  3. Look directly at the center dot with the uncovered eye.
  4. While looking directly at the center dot, note whether all lines of the grid are straight or if any areas are distorted, blurred or dark.
  5. Repeat this procedure with the other eye.
  6. If you experience any of the following changes, which are new from your last eye examination, call our office immediately.
    • blurring
    • distortion or curvy lines (as in picture to right)
    • holes or spots in some areas of the grid