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Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is the most prevalent cause of partial and total vision impairment in senior citizens. It occurs when the macula – the center of the retina – begins to break down. If macular degeneration goes untreated, it will lead to blindness. However, if your ophthalmologist catches it early, it can be treated and vision loss can be prevented.

All adults over the age of 45 should have their eyes thoroughly examined by an ophthalmologist once every two years. By dilating your eyes and doing a complete exam, your ophthalmologist can detect and diagnose a whole host of problems before you exhibit any symptoms, including macular degeneration.

SPOTTING SYMPTOMS EARLY IS KEY

However, that does not mean that you should ignore potential symptoms of macular degeneration and simply wait for your next eye doctor appointment to get checked out. If you are between regular visits to the ophthalmologist and you experience any of these symptoms, call and make an appointment immediately:

  • You develop blind spots, dark blurs, or white spots in the center of your field of vision.
  • Straight lines appear wavy or distorted, especially in the middle of your field of vision.
  • Your ability to perceive colors diminishes or changes noticeably.

These symptoms may become apparent in one or both eyes. Regardless of whether you notice these changes in your left, right, or both eyes, you absolutely must make an appointment with your ophthalmologist for a medical diagnosis and to start treatment as soon as possible.

Dry versus wet macular degeneration:

To understand your options for treatment, you must first know whether you have dry or wet macular degeneration. Dry macular degeneration is far more common, and affects between 80 and 90 percent of ARMD sufferers. It occurs when deposits form on the retina beneath the macula and cause it to degenerate. It also progresses much slower and does not usually result in massive vision loss the way that wet ARMD does. 

Wet ARMD accounts for only a small percentage of ARMD cases (10 to 20 percent), but can be blamed for over 90 percent of all severe vision loss cases due to ARMD. In this case, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina toward the macula, causing it to pull away from its base. Wet ARMD progresses much more rapidly and can cause major vision loss in the center of your field of vision.

Treatment for ARMD:

Currently, there’s no FDA approved treatment for dry ARMD. Most people who suffer from this form of ARMD can compensate for minor vision loss with magnifying glasses, prescription lenses, and large-print books and magazines.

Fortunately, there are a number of treatments available for wet ARMD, including but not limited to:

  • Medication. The patient takes oral medication that prevents abnormal blood vessels from growing and bursting.
  • Laser photocoagulation. This laser procedure destroys the blood vessels affecting the macula.

If you haven’t been to see your eye doctor in the last two years or if you think that you may be suffering from dry or wet macular degeneration, make an appointment today. Getting treatment now could save your vision later.

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