Your retina is an integral part of your eyesight. It receives focused light entering your eye and sends that light as nerve impulses to your brain.
Damage to your retina makes eyesight nearly impossible and can result in permanent vision loss.
The macula is the center part of your retina. It handles focused vision directly in front of you.
Your macula allows you to read and recognize people’s faces near yours. Macular degeneration, or MD, occurs as your macula thins.
If macular degeneration goes untreated for too long, you can lose your central vision. Keep reading to learn what you can do if you’re diagnosed with macular degeneration.
What is Macular Degeneration?
There are two types of MD, dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration. Dry macular degeneration is the first stage and is much more common.
Dry macular degeneration is a thinning of your macula as you age. That’s why macular degeneration is often called age-related macular degeneration or ARMD.
As you get older, your macula thins and loses some of its function. It can occur in both eyes, but it’s more common to have it happen in one eye at a time.
In the affected eye, your central vision deteriorates over time. But your peripheral vision should remain unaffected, so you can still see out of the sides of the affected eye.
Often in cases of dry ARMD, you don’t notice any changes in your vision. The unaffected eye and peripheral vision can usually make up for the loss of function in your affected macula.
ARMD becomes more threatening to your vision if it progresses into wet ARMD.
Wet ARMD is when blood vessels grow under your retina and leak, interfering with your sight. The wet version of ARMD progresses much more quickly than dry MD and can cause severe vision loss.
Who Gets Macular Degeneration
The highest risk factor for ARMD is age. It is most common in people older than sixty.
But there are other risk factors as well. If you have a family history of MD, you have a higher risk of developing it. There is a hereditary component to macular degeneration.
MD is also more common in Caucasians. Besides that, health and lifestyle are the most significant risk factors.
Smoking and secondhand smoke exposure significantly increase your chances of developing MD. Being obese increases your chances of dry MD developing into wet MD. Diseases that affect your heart also may raise your risk.
What Can You Do if You Have Macular Degeneration?
If you have MD or would like to avoid getting it, the simplest things you can do are lead a healthy lifestyle. If you have heart disease, high blood pressure, or are obese, manage these conditions first.
Once your health conditions are under control, focus on exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and a clean diet. Be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and have a good supply of omega-3 fatty acids.
Foods like fish, nuts, and eggs contain omega-3 fatty acids and are essential for healthy eyes. The fruits and vegetables you eat should contain high amounts of antioxidants.
There is no cure for macular degeneration. Following these guidelines and your doctor’s instructions are the only ways to manage it.
If you lose your central vision to MD, you have limited options. Working with a low vision rehabilitation specialist can help you adjust to decreased vision.
A telescopic lens can magnify your field of vision if you have lost your central sight in both eyes. They can help you navigate the world around you but can’t restore your eyesight and have a narrow field of view.
Is macular degeneration affecting your eyesight? Schedule an appointment at Levin Eyecare in Overlea, MD, for help managing MD.