Age-related macular degeneration is a type of eye disease that usually affects older adults. It is one of the leading causes of severe vision problems as well as permanent vision loss in people above 60 years of age. The condition occurs when the macula, which is the small central portion of the retina, starts wearing down. It is not clear what exactly causes macular degeneration, but researchers say that it is usually linked to a combination of genetics and environmental factors such as smoking and diet.

Types of Macular Degeneration

There are two main types of macular degeneration – dry form and wet form. The majority of macular degeneration patients experience the dry type, and only around 10% have the wet type. Yet in some cases, the dry form of the eye disease can also lead to the wet form, which can be even more serious.

People with dry macular degeneration may have slight yellow deposits in their macula, known as drusen. Having a few of the deposits do not usually cause any changes to the vision, but the condition can worsen over time and the drusen may start getting bigger. This eventually leads to a dimmed or distorted vision, especially when reading. In severe cases, the light-sensitive cells in the retina may even get thinner and die. This may lead to blind spots in the center of the vision and even cause total central vision loss.

In wet macular degeneration, blood vessels start growing from beneath the macula and leak blood and fluid into the retina. This causes a distorted vision in a way that straight lines start appearing wavy. It may also lead to blind spots as well as a loss of central vision, as the overgrown blood vessels and the fluids cause scarring of the retina. In severe cases, this can eventually lead to permanent vision loss.

Symptoms of Macular Degeneration

The signs and symptoms of macular degeneration may not be noticeable in its early stages but can cause a lot of problems as the eye disease aggravates. The most common symptoms experienced by macular degeneration patients include less clear vision, difficulty in reading fine print, blurry vision while driving, and dark or blurry areas in the center of the vision. In some rare cases, the condition also causes different color perception.

People with a history of smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are more prone to developing macular degeneration. It is also more common in women, especially those who are light-skinned, obese, or eat a lot of saturated fat. Having a light eye color is also a risk factor for macular degeneration. You should schedule an appointment with your nearest low-income women’s health clinic to find more information about Macular Degeneration.

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    About the Author

    Dr. Ghassan M. Al-Jazayrly, MD

    A graduate of University of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Al-Jazayrly or, as he is colloquially known: Dr. AJ, is an oncologist and hematologist of a Complete Care Community Health Center (CCCHC) with more than 36 years of experience. In recent years, he’s been involved with a non profit organization known as Every Woman Counts (EWC) which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to California’s underserved populations in order to eliminate health disparities for low-income individuals.

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