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Understanding Symptoms of Macular Degeneration

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Macular Degeneration is a significant cause of vision loss, especially among older adults. So, early detection and understanding of the symptoms of macular Degeneration are crucial. By its prompt diagnosis and treatment, you can preserve your vision and quality of life. Let’s get a better understanding of macular Degeneration and its symptoms. 

What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular Degeneration is defined as an eye condition in which the central part of the retina is damaged and impaired.

In this condition, peripheral vision is left normally unharmed. Still, central vision is affected, eventually leading to progressive vision loss. 

Types of Macular Degeneration.

There are mainly two types of macular Degeneration observed among people which includes: 

Dry (Atrophic)

Dry macular Degeneration is considered one of the most common types. This information can be interpreted as it makes up 80-90% of cases. Drusen is a sign that the macula thins out and deposits yellow. With time, this can develop even in its wet form and, at times, lead to more severe loss of vision.

Wet (Neovascular)

Although it is less common, it is the more severe type of macular Degeneration. This occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and macula in our eyes. It is, in fact, a progressive form that further degenerates in that it often leads to severe vision loss more rapidly. Leaking blood and fluid even causes scarring and further damage to the retinal cells, affecting central vision.

Early Symptoms of Macular Degeneration

Early signs and symptoms can alert you to consider your eye health seriously. Some early symptoms you can observe are:

Subtle Vision Changes

You can observe slight fluctuations in vision that would make you realize that the minute details start getting hard to see ᅳ, be it small print in books or even on labels. This can happen even if you are wearing prescription glasses. You might also feel that you need brighter light than before to do small tasks, e.g., reading and doing close work.

Difficulty Recognizing Faces

Another sign can be your difficulty recognizing faces. Due to loss of central vision, it can be challenging to see faces clearly, and you might have trouble remembering the faces of your loved ones and colleagues.

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Visual Distortion

You can also notice that straight edges in your vision look wavy, bent, and discombobulated because lines, shapes, and colors are distorted.
You can use a visual testing tool to check for visual distortion. ‘The Amsler Grid test is a well-known tool for checking distortions in your vision quickly.

Amsler Grid Test

This test checks visual distortions caused by conditions that affect your retina. The Amsler visual rectilinear grid offers a simple way to test visual distortion. It comprises a 10-centimeter by 10-centimeter square grid with a circular dot in the center.

Advanced Symptoms of Macular Degeneration

You can make the advanced symptoms of macular Degeneration take heed for a more severe stage. These are:

Central Vision Loss

Macular Degeneration can progress to the point of giving you a dark or empty area right in the center of your vision. This can make it hard to see directly what is in front of you.

Some impacts you could feel from this symptom in terms of your daily life include:

  • You may find it difficult to read because the letters and the words are unclear.
  • Because of central vision loss, driving may become a challenging task for you. Hazardous for you would be clear road signs, traffic lights, or other vehicles while driving.
  • Also, even recognizing facial expressions with such a condition can be difficult for you.

Color Perception Changes

You will either notice that the color looks dimmer or has a different hue than it did at length. The area of your retina involved in this disease process is called the macula, responsible for detailed and color vision. So, your color perception is significantly affected.

Difficulty Adapting to Low Light:

You may also need help adapting your vision from bright to dim spaces. This is also due to the reduced function of the macula. Due to this condition, you struggle with night driving. And you find it problematic to conduct the transitions, like when traveling from a bright outdoor place to a dimly lit room.

Risk Factors and Who Should Be Alert

Certain factors may help with this condition, and some can worsen it. This mainly includes:

Age and Family History

Macular Degeneration is mainly caused by aging, as it can cause deterioration of the macula. People over 60 are generally at a high risk of developing macular Degeneration. If you have a family history of macular Degeneration, your chances of developing it are even higher.

Lifestyle Factors

In addition to age and family history, your lifestyle can affect your chances of developing macular Degeneration. Some of these are:

Smoking

If you’re a smoker, then you are two to three times more likely to develop macular Degeneration than others.

  • You can consider smoking as one of the significant risk factors for developing this condition. 
  • The harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage your blood vessels in the eyes and accelerate the deterioration of the macula.

Diet

  • You can try to avoid macular degeneration by consuming a diet rich in leafy greens (such as spinach and kale) and fish (high in omega-3 fatty acids).
  • These foods contain essential nutrients like lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3s, which support your macular health and reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the retina of your eyes. 

At What Age Does Macular Degeneration Start?

Macular Degeneration commonly starts to develop in people aged 50 and older. However, the risk increases with age, so people above 60 have a high chance of developing this condition. 

You can experience some early signs even before you reach the age of 50. You can notice these early signs in your 40s or 50s as well. These are the early symptoms we have already discussed above. 

What Foods Should You Avoid With Macular Degeneration?

You can avoid those advanced symptoms of macular degeneration and its severe effects just by avoiding some food. These are just some small changes in your diet and don’t require much effort. Some of these are:

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  • You should avoid food high in saturated and trans fats like fried foods, and baked goods (like cookies and pastries). These fats can contribute to the bacteria deposition in your blood vessels.  This can reduce blood flow to the retina and potentially accelerate the progression of macular degeneration.
  • You should avoid food high in saturated and trans fats like fried foods, and baked goods (like cookies and pastries). These fats can contribute to the bacteria deposition in your blood vessels.  This can reduce blood flow to the retina and potentially accelerate the progression of macular degeneration.
  • You should also avoid food and beverages with high sugar. By taking high sugar intake you can develop obesity and diabetes. Sugar can also cause inflammation and oxidative stress, further damaging retinal cells.
  • Also avoid foods rich in refined carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, and pasta, with high glycemic index. These can lead to a spike in your blood sugar levels. High blood sugar can damage your blood vessels, including those in your eyes, and increase the risk of macular degeneration progression.
  • Avoid consuming processed meats, they mostly contain high levels of sodium and nitrates. It can increase blood pressure and reduce blood flow to the eyes, potentially worsening macular degeneration.
  • Avoid food rich in sodium such as canned soups, processed snacks, and fast foods. Excessive sodium can lead to high blood pressure, in your body, which can reduce the blood supply to your retina and exacerbate macular degeneration.

Is Macular Degeneration Curable?

Currently, there is no way to cure macular Degeneration completely. However, you can reduce its effects and severe symptoms to some extent by making some changes in your lifestyle. Plus, you can manage it well by regularly monitoring your eyes.

Diagnosis and Monitoring

With regular monitoring and early diagnosis, you can assess your present condition and prevent it from progressing. 

Regular Eye Exams

Regularly examining your eyes can help you detect symptoms of macular Degeneration in the early stages.

A routine check with an eye care professional is necessary for early detection. Regular eye exams can help you avoid sudden vision loss through timely intervention. Regular eye exams can provide a comprehensive assessment of overall eye health. They can detect other potential issues that may affect your vision. 

Tools

There are specific tools that you can use to detect symptoms of macular Degeneration early. Those are:

Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)

OCT is a noninvasive imaging technique that provides detailed cross-sectional images of your retina. It can help detect the presence and severity of drusen (yellow deposits), retinal thinning, fluid or blood leakage, indicators of macular Degeneration.

Other imaging techniques, such as fundus photography, fluorescein angiography, and autofluorescence imaging, help identify abnormalities indicative of macular Degeneration.

Self-Monitoring Techniques

By using self-monitoring techniques, you can also easily detect the symptoms of macular Degeneration. By using:

Amsler Grid

Using the Amsler grid, you can easily detect some symptoms of macular Degeneration. The Amsler Grid is a simple and effective tool for self-monitoring changes in vision that you can use at home. It consists of a grid of horizontal and vertical lines with a dot in the center. To use the Amsler Grid

  • Hold the grid at your eye level, about 14-16 inches away.
  • Cover one eye and focus on the central dot with the uncovered eye.
  • While looking at the dot, observe the surrounding lines.
  • Note if any lines appear wavy, distorted, or blurred or if any grid areas are missing.
  • Repeat the process with the other eye.

Conclusion

Understanding your symptoms better and their early detection can even help you control your severe symptoms of Macular Degeneration. Plus, as you know, macular Degeneration is incurable, so the best way to prevent it is to maintain the symptoms. 

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