Macular degeneration or also known as age-related MD (ARMD) is an eye disease that most commonly affects people over the age of 65.
In this article, we will make you familiar with the disease itself, its causes and symptoms and potential treatment methods.
ARMD is an eye condition that causes deterioration of the macula.
The macula is the small central area of the eye’s retina and is responsible for visual acuity.
Thanks to a healthy macula we are able to read, drive, recognize faces, watch our favorite tv – shows and everything else which requires the ability to see in detail.
Macular degeneration is common in elderly people since it basically represents macula wear.
There is, however, a condition called Stargardt disease or juvenile macular degeneration, that affects children and young adults.
About 5% of blindness reason is ARMD.
Due to the aging population, the number of people affected might reach 288 million by 2040.
Studies among Americans show that age-related macular degeneration more often affects white people than Afro – Americans, Hispanics or other ethnic groups (2,5% vs. 0,9%).
There are two main forms of macular degeneration a person can be diagnosed with:
The dry form of age-related macular degeneration occurs in more cases than the wet one.
It is actually the beginning stage of the disease.
Usually, it is caused by the thinning and aging of the macula.
During this period pieces of fat and protein, also known as “drusen” accumulate in and around the macula.
They represent a yellow spot and serve as a way to diagnose dry age-related macular degeneration.
When the disease starts to develop, there may be no symptoms at all.
Therefore it is advisable to get an eye exam every once in a while.
Especially if you fall into the category with a higher chance of developing an eye disease.
Yet, some symptoms of dry age-related macular degeneration eventually appear and may consist of:
As we have already mentioned, most cases of age-related macular degeneration are with the dry form.
About 10% of these cases though develop the wet form of the eye disease.
We know it as “wet” because of blood and fluid leaking from newly formed blood vessels beneath the retina.
Exactly this results in blind spots in central vision.
Wet age-related macular degeneration is actually caused by choroidal neovascularization – this the body’s attempt to build a new network of blood vessels in order to supply more nutrients and oxygen to the retina.
Unfortunately, the process leads even to vision loss in some cases.
We can distinguish two categories of wet age-related macular degeneration and namely:
The symptoms of wet age-related macular degeneration may match with the ones of the dry form.
However, they may also include:
At the beginning of the article, we have clarified that age-related macular degeneration affects people over the age of 60. But what are the causes of it?
Of course, as with any other disease, you have a higher chance of developing it if someone in your family has it / has had it.
In this case, it will be three to four times more likely that you will have it as you grow old.
This has been proved by a few studies, which show that variants of some genes are to be found in most of the people with age-related type.
Still, aging is the factor that plays the biggest role in age-related macular degeneration.
To prove it we will mention statistic data: 1 in 14 people over the age of 40 has developed macular degeneration to a certain level. 1 in 8 is the rate for people over 60.
For people who are 80 years and older, the rate rises up to 1 in 3.
Obesity and an inactive lifestyle are the main causes of a lot of diseases and conditions.
People who are overweight have a two times higher chance of getting age-related macular degeneration.
This was to be seen in a study, which has been reported in the Archives of Ophthalmology (June 2003).
In addition to that, the researchers concluded that people who worked out at least 3 times a week have a lower chance of developing an advanced form of the disease in comparison to inactive participants.
Other causes for age-related macular degeneration are smoking, high blood pressure, lighter eye color or side effects from some drugs.
Sadly, there is no known cure for age-related macular degeneration.
Treatment can only slow it down or prevent you from losing too much vision.
Some treatments, however, can even improve your vision.
What it really depends on is the stage in which the disease is.
If you have the dry form you can prevent developing the wet one by a change in your nutrition (try to incorporate foods rich in Omega – 3 fatty acids) or by taking eye supplements.
Generally, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Zinc and Copper in different quantities studies find to be helpful.
If you have wet age-related macular degeneration your doctor can treat you with drugs or undergo surgery.
Before deciding for any of it, however, you should consult with your eye doctor.
He will give you a piece of professional advice about what is best for you.
Macular degeneration is an eye disease that is more common among elderly people over the age of 60.
It has two main forms – dry and wet age-related.
People think that the wet form is harsher.
Still, we recommend you to check your vision regularly and not to neglect your eyes even though it seems you have perfect eyesight.
Sometimes the symptoms of age-related type may show up 10 years after the beginning of the disease!
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Author: Ilina Stoyanova