Macular Degeneration Symptoms
Macular degeneration, also known as Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is one of the leading causes of vision loss in the US population over the age of 60. It is an eye disease associated with aging and effects the central retina called the macula, thus reducing central vision. Macular degeneration is caused when the macula of the retina deteriorates. The macula is responsible for central vision, where we see 20/20. It allows for detailed work like threading a needle, reading a book, or searching for road signs while driving. The macula is also responsible for color vision.
There are 2 types of Age Related Macular Degeneration, Wet and Dry. Dry ARMD is an early stage of the disease when the macular tissue is beginning to change, and pigment is deposited into this area of the retina. Ten percent of patients with Dry ARMD will progress into Wet ARMD, which is more advanced and damaging. In Wet ARMD, new and immature blood vessels form in the eye and leak fluid and blood under the macular, which destroys the central vision.
Symptoms of Dry Macular Degeneration:
Symptoms of wet macular degeneration (in addition to all of the above):
- Shadowy areas in your central vision
- Unusual fuzzy or distorted vision
- Detailed work becoming more difficult such as reading a book or recognizing faces
- Blind spots
- Straight lines look wavy, bent or crooked
- Objects appearing smaller in one eye compared to the other
- Visual hallucinations called Charles Bonnet Syndrome are rare and may occur in end-stage disease. It is caused by a deterioration in the communication between what the macula sees and what the brain interprets.
Often the above symptoms will only occur in one eye. It is also hard to define any changes as the good eye will compensate for the eye that is suffering from macular degeneration.
It is important to see a doctor if you notice changes to your central vision, or if your ability to see colors and detail changes for the worse. It is also important, especially for those over the age of 50, to have regular eye checks every year to monitor and detect any early signs of macular degeneration or other sight-threatening disease.
Symptoms of Dry Macular Degeneration
The onset of dry Macular Degeneration is often slow, gradual and painless. The following symptoms may be early indications of the presence of this disease:
Self Diagnosis Using an Amsler Grid
An Amsler grid is a tool your doctor uses to diagnose central retinal damage that may be caused by Macular Degeneration or other eye diseases. It is a chart of horizontal and vertical lines with a dot in the center and is useful in detection of distorted central vision. The Amsler Grid is a good self-test to use between professional eye examinations and can be downloaded from the internet or obtained from your eye doctor.
Amsler Grid directions: Close or cover one eye and look with the other eye at the central dot, while holding the chart approximately 16 inches away. If you usually wear reading glasses you should wear them for this test. The lines should all be perfectly straight and regular with the same contrast. Repeat with the other eye. If some of the lines are missing, or are wavy, the patient should consult an eye doctor for an immediate eye exam.
If you have any of the above symptoms it is imperative that you arrange an eye examination to ascertain what the problem may be. Loss of sight from macular degeneration or some other eye disease may not be reversed, but early diagnosis and treatment can easily prevent permanent loss of vision.
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