Macular degeneration is a progressive eye disease affecting the macula, the central part of the retina responsible for sharp vision. It is a leading cause of vision loss in people over 50. But how do you know if you have it? There are some signs and symptoms you can look out for, as well as some ways to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Signs and Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
Blurred or Distorted Vision
One of the most common early symptoms of macular degeneration is blurry or wavy central vision. Straight lines may appear distorted, and objects may lose their clarity.
Difficulty Reading or Performing Close-Up Tasks
As the condition progresses, individuals may find it increasingly challenging to read small print, sew, or perform other activities that require detailed or more precise vision.
Dark or Empty Areas in Your Central Vision
Some people with macular degeneration may experience dark or empty spots in their central vision. This can make it difficult to recognize faces, drive, or engage in activities that require focused vision.
Decreased Color Perception
Macular degeneration can cause a decrease in color vibrancy or intensity. Colors may appear faded or less vivid than before.
Difficulty Adapting to Low-Light Conditions
Individuals with macular degeneration may find it harder to adjust to dim lighting or require brighter lighting to see things more clearly.
Gradual Loss of Central Vision
Macular degeneration typically affects central vision first, while peripheral vision remains intact. Over time, the loss of central vision can become more pronounced and impact daily activities.
Types of Macular Degeneration
Dry Macular Degeneration
This is the more common type, accounting for about 90% of cases of macular degeneration. It is characterized by the gradual breakdown of light-sensitive cells in the macula. The progression of dry macular degeneration is generally slower than the wet type.
Wet Macular Degeneration
This type is less common but more severe. It occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow beneath the retina and leak fluid or blood, leading to rapid and significant damage to the macula. Wet macular degeneration can cause sudden and severe vision loss.
Best Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Macular Degeneration
Because macular degeneration can be so serious, knowing ways to reduce your risk can be vital to keeping your vision intact. Some of the best ways to reduce your risk include:
- Consume a healthy diet rich in vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants. Eat leafy green vegetables, seafood, nuts, carrots, and vibrant fruits to support your eye health.
- Give up smoking. Smoking significantly increases the risk of macular degeneration. If you already have the disease, quitting smoking can help slow its course.
- Use sunglasses that block UV rays, and think about using blue light filters on your digital devices to lessen the risk of macula deterioration.
- Regular exercise: Maintaining general health through physical activity may help improve eye health as well.
- Routine eye exams: To effectively manage macular degeneration, schedule routine visits with an eye care expert for thorough eye examinations.
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As early management can help slow the advancement of macular degeneration and preserve your vision, early identification and routine eye exams are essential in recognizing and treating macular degeneration.