We all know our eyes can play tricks on us, but it's important to recognize when a trick is a warning sign.
Macular degeneration is a progressive and degenerative disease that affects the lining of the retina, the photosensitive tissue in the eye that gathers information and sends it to the brain. Symptoms typically include blurred or distorted vision or a dark area in the center of your vision, but these differ from person to person.
There are two main types of macular degeneration. The most common is the "dry" form, which accounts for approximately 90 percent of the cases. The dry form progresses over years as deposits build up under the macula.
The other type is "wet" macular degeneration, which can have devastating effects on your vision. The retina weakens and allows new blood vessels to grow in through the bottom surface of the tissue. These new blood vessels are immature and leak blood, which can lead to scarring and rapid decline in visual quality.
Macular degeneration is not painful and can often be treated if caught early. It is important to have your eyes examined yearly and to not ignore any symptoms. If your vision is blurred or if you have sudden visual changes, a prompt exam is required. Current treatments target new, immature blood vessels and can limit or reverse vision loss. There are also vitamins that can slow the progression and help prevent loss of vision.
Risk factors for macular degeneration include fair skin color and light-colored eyes, a family history of macular degeneration, a history of smoking, poor cardiovascular health and a history of prolonged exposure to UV rays.
Prevention is the key. Limit exposure to the sun and always wear a pair of sunglasses that are rated to block 100 percent of UV rays. Eating a healthy diet of foods in vibrant colors and maintaining good cardiovascular health are also important.
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