What is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration, also called age-related macular degeneration (ARMD for short) is the leading cause of vision loss in adults over the age of 50 in the United States¹. The macula is the part of the retina where light focuses to create crisp, clear, sharp vision when looking at objects straight ahead. ARMD can cause blurred, missing or distorted vision. Peripheral (side) vision is unaffected by macular degeneration. Many patients will adapt different head or eye posture as the disease progresses to help compensate for the lost areas of central vision.
There is no cure for macular degeneration, but a healthy diet, exercise, and not smoking are the best lifestyle changes an individual can make to lower their risk of developing the condition². These same changes are effective measures to take if you have already been diagnosed with ARMD as well. Other risk factors include: female gender, Caucasian race, and genetic predisposition³.
There are two types of ARMD. The dry kind also called non-exudative macular degeneration is most common. Dry macular degeneration cannot be cured but a healthy lifestyle, and a special vitamin regimen may help slow down the progression of the disease². The more severe kind of ARMD, often referred to as wet, or exudative macular degeneration, occurs when blood vessels start to form in the macula. Wet macular degeneration can be treated with eye injections to help slow the progression of the disease.
Macular degeneration causes central vision loss, also called a central scotoma. A scotoma is an area of the visual field that is not perceived by the brain. Scotomas can happen from damage to the retina, optic nerve, or somewhere else along the visual tract. A central scotoma causes missing areas of the vision when looking directly at an object. Patients with a central vision loss have difficulty seeing faces, reading, driving, and watching television. Eccentric viewing is an adaptation that many people with macular degeneration will use. This technique involves using different areas of the retina to get a clearer image since the center is damaged.