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What Is Macular Degeneration and How to Know If You Have It

By February 27, 2019Uncategorized

Macular degeneration is a common eye condition that affects people aged 50-60 or older, leading to loss of vision. It is treatable through various types of therapy, but macular degeneration can affect independence for afflicted patients. Free home healthcare services may be an option for those who qualify, providing much-needed support when the effects of macular degeneration require a person to rely on others for assistance.

Facts About Macular Degeneration

The condition affects the macula, which is a spot near the center of the retina that enables the eye to focus on objects. There are two types of late-stage macular degeneration:

  1. Dry macular degeneration leads to a breakdown of cells that communicate messages to the brain. When these messages are disrupted, the individual suffers loss of vision. Dry macular degeneration usually develops over time.
  2. Wet macular degeneration is a condition where abnormal blood vessels develop beneath the retina, which can leak fluid and blood. This causes severe damage to the retina, and it can occur quickly without treatment.

Risk Factors: Age is the most prominent risk factor, but macular degeneration is more likely to occur in individuals who smoke or are not physically active. These risk factors can be alleviated by quitting smoking and starting an exercise regimen. However, other patients may be at risk if they have a family history of the condition. Experts recommend routine testing for those who have a propensity toward macular degeneration.

Statistics on Macular Degeneration: According to the National Eye Institute, more than 1.75 million individuals in the US suffer the effects of macular degeneration. By 2020, this figure is expected to almost double with the increased aging of the population. In addition:

  • Approximately 14 percent of individuals aged 80 or older suffer from macular degeneration.
  • Macular degeneration affects Caucasians to a greater extent as compared to African-American or Hispanic individuals.
  • Women are more likely to suffer from macular degeneration than men.

Symptoms of Macular Degeneration

Fortunately, advanced technology has enabled healthcare providers to identify macular degeneration before you notice any symptoms. Waste deposits form on the surface of the retina, which are detectable through a thorough eye exam. There may also be a visible change in color. In some people, macular degeneration does not progress further than the initial stages.

However, if not diagnosed before this point, additional symptoms may include blurriness and fuzzy vision. Instead of straight lines you expect on normal, everyday objects, the edges of a door or wall appear wavy. Objects may seem smaller and you may have trouble reading words on a page. Your central scope of vision looks gray or empty, while your ability to perceive color is limited.

It is important to note that there are other medical conditions that can cause these same effects, which is why the symptoms of macular degeneration go undiagnosed. Some forms of this ailment can worsen quickly, but it is possible to treat macular degeneration if your doctor catches the disease.

Treatment Options for Macular Degeneration

Your doctor’s approach to treating macular degeneration will depend on your specific condition. For the dry version of the disease, nutrition is key. You can improve your prospects through a healthy diet high in antioxidants, which enhances the macular cells of the eye. Vitamins and supplements can boost the impact of your diet.

There are multiple treatment strategies for wet macular degeneration, including:

Laser Photocoagulation: The earliest approach to treating macular degeneration, laser therapy reduced the risk of severe vision loss by sealing leaking blood vessels. However, it would only work upon certain locations of the eye.

Photodynamic Therapy: PDT improved upon laser treatments by injecting a medication into the patient’s arm, and then activating it go through a low-level light. The physician can direct the laser to the proper area and selectively destroy affected vessels, leaving healthy ones intact. The downside to photodynamic therapy is that, though the rate of vision loss is slowed, it cannot restore vision that is already lost. Plus, additional treatments are usually necessary.

Anti-VEGF Therapy: Vascular endothelial growth factor therapy is the most effective and preferred treatment for wet macular degeneration. An anti-VEGF chemical is inserted into the eye to inhibit the growth of weak, unhealthy blood vessels in the layer of the eye behind the retina. The keeps the retina free of leakage, but multiple procedures are usually necessary.

Home Health Services Can Assist with Macular Degeneration

Though macular degeneration is treatable, multiple therapy sessions are necessary. Patients may need support immediately after and in between procedures, but free home healthcare may be available through United Energy Workers Healthcare and Four Corners Health Care for those who qualify. For more information on our services, energy workers compensation programs and support offerings, please contact one of our knowledgeable team members.