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Macular Degeneration: Early Diagnosis Can Protect Your Vision

Macular degeneration is an incurable vision disease that is the leading cause of blindness for Americans aged 60 and older. If you have recently been diagnosed with macular degeneration or are worried about declining vision, you are not alone; more than 10 million Americans also have this disease. Since vision lost from macular degeneration is gone forever, early diagnosis and treatment is critical to protecting your existing vision. We at SouthWest Vision understand just how scary a diagnosis of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can be. With early diagnosis and proactive treatment, we can protect your quality of life.

Wet Macular Degeneration and Dry Macular Degeneration: What’s the Difference?

Macular degeneration is a vision condition in which the macula, the part of the eye that manages central vision, sustains serious damage. Since AMD makes it difficult to detect facial expressions and see fine details, if you are diagnosed with AMD, you will find it difficult to read, type, and drive. There are two main types of macular degeneration: dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration. Dry macular degeneration occurs when light-sensitive cells in the macula degenerate, resulting in vision loss. With AMD, one of the most common symptoms is that straight lines start to appear crooked. Wet macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow in the macula and begin to leak fluids, causing irreversible damage. While rare, wet macular degeneration can happen suddenly; the most common warning sign is the abrupt onset of blurred vision.

Macular Degeneration: Risk Factors, Diagnosis and Treatment

Macular degeneration is most common in Caucasians aged 60 and older. Smoking more than doubles your risk for developing this serious vision condition. Eating a healthy, balanced diet rich in green vegetables and maintaining regular blood pressure and cholesterol levels can help lower your risk for developing AMD. If you are 60 years or older, you should receive regular screening exams for AMD in conjunction with your annual eye exams.

AMD is diagnosed with an optical coherence tomography (OCT) exam. An OCT test works by measuring the retina’s thickness; any retinal thickening or thinning is a warning sign for AMD. Our eye doctors will also conduct a visual acuity test and dilated eye exam to evaluate your overall vision health. Changes to your vision could be early warning signs for AMD or another eye condition, such as cataracts or glaucoma. Our eye doctor follows the National Eye Institute’s treatment guidelines for AMD. These guidelines include a high dose antioxidant and zinc vitamin to help slow the damage to the macula. This treatment protocol is effective for patients with early to intermediate damage.

Both dry and wet macular degeneration can have a serious impact on an individual’s quality of life; early detection is essential to minimizing vision loss. If you notice any changes in your vision, contact our eye doctor for an immediate evaluation.

For more information on macular degeneration, including how you can protect your vision, schedule an appointment with our eye care team today. Call SouthWest Vision at 435-673-5577.