Types Of Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is commonly referred to as age-related macular degeneration and is abbreviated as AMD. There are two different types of macular degeneration and it can lead to a variety of vision problems including blurred vision and ultimately blindness.

Learning About Macular Degeneration

It’s important to know the specifics about the two types of macular degeneration to understand what you may go through as well as what can be done. There may be signs of each and that will be enough to go into an eye doctor to get the necessary diagnosis. Dry macular degeneration can turn into wet macular degeneration, too, so it’s especially important to know about each type.
Macular degeneration will only affect the center field of vision. Side and peripheral vision is rarely affected, which means most people do not go entirely blind once they have received a diagnosis of AMD.

Understanding Dry Macular Degeneration

Dry macular degeneration is also known under the name non-neovascular and is a chronic eye condition causing vision loss in the center of your field of vision. It is caused by the cells below the retina breaking down. This is the center of the macula, which is on the retinal pigment epithelium. The breakdown is caused by drusen, a yellowish deposit that builds up over time.

The deposit of drusen will affect the retinal pigment epithelium. This area should not be disturbed because it is where cone cells and light rods are housed. These are responsible for deciphering light and therefore allowing us to see. If these become atrophied because of the drusen, it will impair vision. Since this area is in the center of the retina, it will affect central vision loss.

As the macula continues to break down, vision will continue to get worse. Blurred spots and blind spots will begin to occur with more frequency as time goes on. The macular degeneration can occur in one eye or in both eyes, though it is commonly found in both.

Dry macular degeneration is by far the most common – approximately 90 percent of all diagnosed are diagnosed with the dry type. The main difference is that dry macular degeneration is a slow process where vision loss is gradual. Wet macular degeneration can be sudden and result in severe vision loss.

Clear central vision is required for a variety of activities – including driving, reading and even recognizing people. As the degeneration continues, it can significantly reduce your quality of life because of the blurred central vision as well as the blind spot that may develop in the center of your field of vision.

Symptoms of dry macular degeneration begins with slightly blurred vision. You may find it hard to recognize a face or that you may need more light when you are reading or doing any number of other tasks.

During a dilated eye exam, your doctor is likely going to recognize the buildup of drusen under the retina, which is one of the most common symptoms. This is usually found in individuals over the age of 60.

There are three stages with dry macular degeneration: early, intermediate, and advanced.

Early stages demonstrate either a few small or medium sized drusen behind the retina. During this stage, you will not experience any kind of vision loss.

Intermediate stages will have medium-sized to one or more large drusen in the eye. You may or may not begin seeing a blurred spot in the center of your vision. It is likely that you will need more light for reading and performing other tasks. Night vision may be limited as well.

Advanced stages will not only have drusen but also a breakdown of cells and supporting tissues throughout the central retinal area, which are light sensitive. This breakdown leads to a blurred spot in the center of your vision. Over time, this spot is going to increase in size and will begin to take up your entire field of vision. It is likely that you will find it difficult to read and find it difficult to recognize people until they are directly in front of you.

How you continue to be affected will greatly depend on whether the dry macular degeneration is in one eye or both. If it is only in the one eye, you may not notice a considerable difference within your vision – which is why many people don’t realize that they have AMD until it is in the intermediate stage. You will still be able to drive, read, and do all of the other things you enjoy doing because your field of vision will be clear – at least in the one eye. If you have macular degeneration in one eye, you are at a higher risk for getting macular degeneration in the other eye, which means it may only be a matter of time before drusen is found in the other eye.

Dry macular degeneration can turn into the wet form at any time, even in the early stage. There is no way for an eye doctor to be able to tell you whether it will or will not turn into the wet form. It is simply a matter of waiting and watching. The wet form is caused by a different set of problems beneath the retina.

Understanding Wet Macular Degeneration

All people who have wet macular degeneration had dry macular degeneration first. This can also be referred to as neovascular and is where the macula degenerates but it is because of blood vessels that are hemorrhaging in the eye or because of an abnormal growth of blood vessels within the eye. While wet macular degeneration is the least common (about 10 percent of those diagnosed have wet), about 2/3 of those who are in the advanced stages of dry macular degeneration end up with wet macular degeneration, causing even more vision loss.

The abnormal growth of blood vessels is triggered behind the retina and this causes blood and protein to leak because of how fragile they are. This fluid leaking behind the retina will cause the blood vessels to overgrow and damage the macula – as well as the rod and cone cells. This is because the fluid will raise the macula from its normal resting place at the back of the eye. When the rod and cone cells become damaged, vision loss is inevitable.

When the blood vessels begin to hemorrhage, it can lead to vision loss abruptly, sometimes as quickly as overnight. Even if the vessels didn’t begin to bleed, the overgrowth of them on the macula and/or retina would eventually cause severe central vision loss, though it wouldn’t be as sudden.

Understanding the Differences

It’s important to fully understand the differences between wet and dry macular degeneration. Dry maculation encompasses 90 percent of the diagnoses, though all people will have dry macular degeneration prior to having wet macular degeneration. Additionally, dry is categorized by a breakdown of the retina with the presence of drusen. Wet is categorized by the abundance of blood vessels, which can leak and hemorrhage, causing significant and sometimes instant vision loss within the center field of vision.

Neither form is reversible, though it can be detected early on by an eye doctor. This is not a common problem for those under the age of 60. Over the age of 60, a comprehensive eye dilation test is conducted in order to look for drusen behind the retina, which will signal the start of AMD.

Since there is no known cure for macular degeneration of either type, a person must simply learn to deal with the vision loss. If you are affected my macular degeneration, you will need to give up certain things – such as reading and driving. There are other ways to enjoy the things you love – audio books can help you engage in a good book still – you will simply have to learn to adapt.