February is Macular Degeneration Month
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in the U.S. As a result, each February, the American Academy of Ophthalmology switches its focus to Macular Degeneration Month. But at Nevada Eye Physicians, with locations in Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City, Mesquite, and Pahrump, NV, we take great pride in treating it year-round. As with any successful diagnosis and course of treatment for a disease, we believe it’s always best to first assess what causes a condition such as macular degeneration in the first place.
What is macular degeneration?
Your macula is the small tissue at the back of your central retina, but its importance is anything but small. Think of the macula as the interpreter portion of your eye that constantly communicates with the brain to help you focus on simple tasks like driving or reading, as well as some of the finer details you look at every day like recognizing people, facial expressions, and different colors. However, because it occupies such a tiny portion of the retina, fatty lipids (called drusen) can affect your central vision as you age. (Macular degeneration rarely causes damage to your less-precise peripheral vision.) The buildup of these deposits can ultimately lead to the deterioration of the macula, making it one of the leading causes of vision loss for people over the age of 60. With regular eye exams from the professionals at Nevada Eye Physicians, macular degeneration can be detected earlier and treated before your vision is unnecessarily compromised.
What are the causes of macular degeneration?
Age: As you age, so does your macula tissue, causing it to progressively thin over time. And because it is sensitive to light, the level of brightness or darkness in the area you are focusing on can become a significant factor in the quality of your central vision.
Genetics: If you have a family history of macular degeneration, you may be more vulnerable to the disease. If you are Caucasian, you are also more susceptible than those of African or Latin descent.
Smoking: Like many diseases, smoking only exacerbates dormant ailments. Quitting smoking now could help slow an otherwise inevitable progression.
While the exact cause of the disease is not known, other contributing factors that may increase the risk of macular deterioration include:
- High blood pressure or cholesterol
- Gender (females are more susceptible)
- Lighter eye color or skin tone
What are the symptoms of macular degeneration?
There are two distinct types of macular degeneration: wet and dry. Dry macular degeneration is the most common form, and is estimated to affect nearly 90 percent of that patient population. But because wet AMD tends to involve the leaking of blood vessels underneath the retina, symptoms are usually detected more quickly and are considered more severe.
Dry AMD Symptoms
- Hazy distance vision
- Blurry or blank spots in close vision
- Dull colors
- Difficulty adjusting to light
- Increased need for bright light to read
Wet AMD Symptoms
- Gray or blank spots in your central vision
- Objects look different in each eye
- Vision is distorted or abstract
- Inability to instantly recognize subject matter
As with most progressive vision problems, age-related macular degeneration can be difficult to diagnose due to its general lack of early symptoms. There is only one way to detect AMD’s presence, and that is with tests by the experts at Nevada Eye Physicians based on your regularly scheduled exams. Once formally diagnosed, your eye doctor will develop a treatment plan depending on the severity level of the disease’s advancement. Progression may be slowed by simply living a healthier lifestyle or using magnification, or may require a course of action more intensive with medications such as anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) injections to shrink the blood vessels in your central vision. We’ll develop the customized therapy that works best for you.
Unsure what’s causing you to have one or more of these symptoms? Don’t be. Contact Nevada Eye Physicians in Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City, Mesquite, and Pahrump, NV today to schedule your exam.