More than 10 million people in the United States live with macular degeneration, a progressive disease that’s also a leading cause of vision loss. While there’s no known cure, lifestyle changes and medical care can slow down its effects.
At Alamo Eye Care in San Antonio, Texas, Dr. Melanie Frogozo, Dr. Swati Kumar and their expert team diagnose and treat macular degeneration to help minimize your symptoms and slow its progression to preserve your vision for as long as possible.
Here, we explore the different types of macular degeneration, as well as ways we can help.
Macular degeneration affects two important parts of your eyes: your retina and macula.
The retina, a layer of tissue at the back of your eye, picks up on light and sends images to your brain. Without it, you wouldn't be able to see details sharply enough to read or drive well.
The macula is a small area at the center of the retina that allows you to see details close up, such as in faces or printed text.
When you have macular degeneration, gradual changes in your macula interfere with your central vision. Signs you’re dealing with it include:
A dark or empty area in the center of your vision
Loss of clear color vision
Reduced ability to see objects clearly
Seeing distorted shapes of objects
Straight lines look crooked or wavy
When you’re diagnosed with macular degeneration, you’re told it’s either “wet” or “dry.” Dry, or atrophic, macular degeneration, accounts for 85-90% of all cases. The remaining 10-15% of diagnoses are wet, or exudative.
A less common form, known as Stargardt disease, affects young people due to a recessive gene. Dry and wet macular degeneration, on the other hand, tend to be age-related.
With dry macular degeneration, your retina deteriorates due to small, yellow deposits, known as drusen, that form under the macula. Drusen lead to a breakdown of the macula, which interferes with its ability to work normally.
As a result, you may notice mild or minimal visual changes at first, but they worsen over time.
When you have wet macular degeneration, abnormal blood vessels grow under your macula and retina. These blood vessels may start leaking blood and fluid, forcing the macula to lift up or bulge outward. When this happens, your vision loss can unfold quickly and severely.
If you’re showing signs of macular degeneration, our experts can confirm or rule out the diagnosis during a comprehensive eye exam. Because dry macular degeneration causes such gradual symptoms, you may not realize you have the disease until a routine exam detects it. In other words, don’t skip those checkups!
During your exam, your doctor dilates your pupils with special drops and then looks for macular degeneration signs, such as abnormal cells, bleeding, and deposits in your retinas. They also take images of the insides of your eyes for a closer look.
Once you’ve been diagnosed with macular degeneration, our recommendations depend on the type you have and the severity of your symptoms. There’s no specific dry macular degeneration treatment, but we may recommend various steps, such as:
Eating a Mediterranean diet
Low-vision rehabilitation or occupational therapy
Taking vitamin supplements
An implanted telescopic lens, for advanced cases in both eyes
For wet macular degeneration, you may benefit from anti-VEGF injections if it’s diagnosed early on.
To learn more about macular degeneration or get the care you need, call Alamo Eye Care at 210-469-9744 or text us at 210-403-9050. You can also request an appointment through our website.