Macular degeneration is a disease common in older individuals, characterized by deterioration in the central part of the retina, called the macula. The macula is responsible for the acuity in our central vision. A healthy macula is necessary to be able to read fine print or recognize faces at a distance.
Macular degeneration comes in many forms with different rates of progression and severity. Commonly, the disease is broken down into two groups know as "dry" and "wet." Dry macular degeneration is characterized by small yellow deposits in the macula as well as areas of muscular weakness. This form is typically slow in progression with many patients maintaining functional vision for many years. There are no current medical treatments for dry macular degeneration.
Wet macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow into the macula, causing bleeding, swelling and scarring. Recent advancements that use lasers and injectable medications have halted the progression of wet macular degeneration.
Vitamin supplements may also be helpful. A recent landmark study showed that for certain patients, the risk of further vision loss could be lowered by 25 percent by taking a regimen of high doses of antioxidant vitamins; however, not all groups of patients benefited, and there are certain risks when taking these very high doses. You should consult with your eye doctor before starting on this regimen to make sure it is safe and appropriate.
Finally, even patients with significant impairment can often continue to read by being fitted with special magnifying devices at their eye doctor's office or at an eye specialty center.
For more information on macular generation, visit mountnittany.org.
Article was originally posted in the February 2012 issue of State College Magazine.