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What is macular degeneration?

Dr. Matthew Alpert graduated with clinical honors from the New England College of Optometry, in Boston, Massachusetts. His practice, Alpert Vision Care, is a three-generation family optometric practice that has been servicing the Los A...

Don't ignore any changes in your vision

With award-winning actress Judi Dench recently announcing that she is suffering from macular degeneration, you may be wondering if you're at risk for the ocular disease, especially if you've had unexplained changes in your vision.
Woman with vision loss

We all know our eyes can play tricks on us, but it's important to recognize when a trick is a warning sign.

What is macular degeneration?

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.

Types of macular degeneration

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.

Treatments for macular degeneration

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.

Are you at risk for macular degeneration?

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.

Reduce your risk for macular degeneration

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.

Visit VSP.com to learn more about macular degeneration and to find an eye doctor in your area so you can schedule regular checkups.

More on eye health

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Tips to avoid digital eye strain
10 Tips to avoid vision loss

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