What is Dry Macular Degeneration?
Age related macular degeneration is the term used for a number of eye diseases which are marked by a deterioration of tissue in the macula. The macula is the part of the retina which is necessary for sharp central vision. The degeneration of the macula occurs in the layer of tissue on the back of the eyeball.
Macular degeneration gradually affects a sufferer's quality of life as the macular degeneration progresses and things gradually become more blurred. A complete blind spot in the central vision may eventually occur. Colors will appear to be less bright, and extra bright light will increasingly be required for close work and reading. It will affect working, driving and recognizing people as well as causing problems with detailed or fine work.
Macular degeneration occurs in adults over the age of 50, hence its name of Age-related Macular Degeneration. It is currently estimated that 1.75 million US residents suffer from age related macular degeneration and that figure is increasing as the population ages. The two most common types of macular degeneration are wet and dry macular degeneration. The most common type by far is dry macular degeneration, but in about ten per cent of cases this then develops into wet macular degeneration which is more serious and may require surgery.
Currently there is no treatment to reverse the effects of dry macular degeneration. This condition creeps up on sufferers very slowly and many people whose vision is only minimally affected continue to lead normal lives. The good news is that if dry macular degeneration is diagnosed it can be slowed considerably just with a change of diet and by taking some additional supplements. Adding green leafy vegetables to your diet, and taking supplements of Vitamin A, C and E along with zinc, are sufficient to halt the progress of this disease. It's as easy as that!
Dry macular degeneration is also called non-neovascular macular degeneration and it is an early stage of the disease. It may result from the thinning and aging of the macular tissue or a depositing of pigment in the macula, or it may be a combination of the two processes.
Diagnosing Dry Macular Degeneration
Dry macula degeneration can be diagnosed by an eye specialist when yellow spots, known as drusen, begin to accumulate around the macula in the retina. In a healthy, normal eye these deposits would be removed by the blood vessels which service the eye, but for some reason in those suffering from dry macular degeneration this removal of debris does not occur. Environmental, dietary and behavioral factors are all thought to affect the progress of this disease.
If you are suffering from the following symptoms, you need to get an eye examination immediately to see whether you are suffering from dry macular degeneration, or some other form of eye disease:
- A blurred or blind spot in the center of vision and reduced sharpness of your central vision.
- A need for increasingly bright light to read or to do close work
- An increase in blurry print when reading
- A decrease in the intensity of bright colors
- A growing overall haziness in vision
- A noticeable difficulty to adjust to low lighting level, such as when entering a dimly lit room
- Difficulty in recognizing peoples' faces
- Some sufferers experience unusual patterns, figures or strange faces known as Hallucinations. They are caused by a lack of communication between what the macula sees and what the brain interprets. This is called the Charles Bonnet syndrome.
Those who are over 50 who have a family history of macular degeneration are at particularly high risk of the disease and should have regular eye checks. Use an Amsler Grid to self check your macula vision. See how to do this in the Macular Degeneration Symptoms article.
Treatment of Dry Macular Degeneration
If dry macular degeneration has been diagnosed then further damage can easily be limited by increasing vitamins and zinc into your diet. These can be incorporated in the following ways:
- Eat plenty of green, leafy vegetables every day
- Take a daily dose of antioxidants and zinc
- Take daily supplements of lutein and zeaxanthin
- Avoid bright sunlight and protect the eyes from ultra-violet and blue light by wearing wrap-around sunglasses
- Give up smoking
Although these actions currently only limit further damage to vision it is hoped that a cure for dry macular degeneration will soon be found.
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