By David A. Koch, O.D., F.A.A.O.
As one ages, there are many changes that can occur to the eye. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of central vision loss. It is a change to the macula, a portion of the retina responsible for clear, sharp vision, the size of a pin-head and located on the inside back wall of the eye. This highly sensitive area must remain healthy in order to see detail or vivid color. Symptoms include a gradual loss of ability to see objects clearly, distorted vision in which objects appear to be the wrong size or straight lines appear wavy or crooked. While loss of color and dark spots in the field of vision usually occurs over time there can be a sudden loss of central vision.
There are two distinctive types of macular degeneration. “Dry” type is the most common, age related and possibly hereditary in nature, and slow in progression. Hypertension, smoking, and sun exposure are thought to be contributing factors. While there is no cure “dry” has a better prognosis and may benefit from multivitamins which include Lutein and Omega 3’s. Protection from ultraviolent by wearing sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat are suggested. Early detection is important. Since the peripheral vision is not affected it will always be useful. Good illumination devices and magnifiers can help maximize both central and peripheral vision.
“Wet” macular degeneration is far less common than “dry” but more devastating. Thought to be related to leakage in the most sensitive area of the retina, there is a rather rapid progression of fluid, blood vessel growth, and scarring. Early detection is needed to see the extent of the leakage and apply treatment in the form of in the eye therapy to block the leakage and close any vessels that have hemorrhaged. The goal is to stabilize the leakage and minimize vision loss. Peripheral vision is not lost and many can function very well following treatment. Vitamins may help but controlling underlying systemic conditions is essential.
Evidence suggests that eating a good diet with emphasis on leafy green vegetables, drinking red wine, taking multivitamins, eliminate smoking and protection from ultraviolent light will help minimize the effects of macular degeneration. Early detection is essential. If one has changes due to macular degeneration they should discuss it with their eye doctor. Some suggested options for treatment may include vitamin therapy, specialized illumination, glasses or low vision aides.
Dr. David A. Koch, P.C.
858 Welsh Road
Maple Glen, Pa 19002