As the name suggests, it is the deterioration of the macula, a central small area of the retina that controls visual acuity. Known as Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD or AMD) as well, it is a medical condition resulting in blurred or in extreme cases no vision. At first, there are no symptoms found but gradually the patient might experience vision issues affecting either one or both the eyes. However, it is important to note that it does not cause complete blindness, but a central loss of vision occurs making it hard to perform the daily activities of life such as reading, driving, recognizing faces and such other things. Visual hallucinations might also occur.
What is Macular Degeneration?
Macular Degeneration is an eye disorder where you can find black spots on the eye and such sports can block the optic nerve that is connected with our brain. The macula is a central position of the retina and this is the main part of focusing the central vision of the eye. Through the macula, we can read books, drive the car and identify the colors. Macular Degeneration can block our nerve and create black layers on the macula. So we can find some difficulty in our vision due to this problem.
Stages of Macular Degeneration:
The stages can be broadly categorized into:
- Early Stage: In the Early Stage AMD, there are in most cases no noticeable symptoms. Little white spots called “drusen” might occur as time passes. The causes in this stage involve inflammation and oxidative stress.
- Intermediate Stage: Genes inherited in the complement cascade by patient have higher chances of getting affected.
- Later Stage: in this stage, you can find wet AMD or dry AMD. In the Wet AMD, there is an abnormal growth of the blood vessels behind the macula which is the central portion of the retina causing fluid leaks thus the name “wet” and distorted vision.
Wet AMD again falls into two categories:
- Occult – here, there is no pronounced blood vessel growth under the retina. Leakage here is also less evident. It, therefore, produces less severe vision impairment.
- Classic– here, the blood vessel growth is prominent and the scarring is less obscure under the retina. It causes vision loss which is comparatively greater than that of Occult Wet AMD.
As for the Dry AMD, it is sometimes referred to as geographic atrophy because photoreceptors or light-sensitive cells and RPE cells die. It looks almost like that of a map hence the name “geographic”.
Causes of Macular Degeneration:
The causes of macular degeneration are not conclusively known since research has been done very less upon this disease mostly because of poor funding. All that is known about it, is that the causes are complex including both environment and heredity as factors. Scientists are still working to figure out the cause for the macula to deteriorate.
However, there have been close links associated with smoking, improper diet or even high blood pressure. Therefore, these might also be a probable cause.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration:
- There is a gradual and painless loss of vision.
- Early signs might be in the form of shadowy vision which can be fussy in an unusual way causing a distorted sight.
- There might be slow recovery after being exposed to bright light. Precisely why, the Photostress Test is performed to identify macular degeneration.
- There will be trouble identifying colors from a dark color to another dark color and a light color to another light color.
- Patients with Dry Macular Degeneration, do not experience any symptoms per se but might gradually progress into blurred vision
- Visual hallucinations might also occur and also sudden flashing of lights.
- Visual acuity is found to dramatically decline in fact it might also decrease as much as two or three levels.
There is currently no treatment for macular degeneration. One can only reduce the risk and slow the progression after diagnosis.