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Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration Illustration

This is a disorder where the retina in the macular region at the back of the eye undergoes unhealthy changes. This area is only about 3.5 mm's in diameter and is responsible for helping to resolve small details. When we look at an object, say a person face: that image falls onto the retina in this macular area. If there is retinal degeneration in this area, the image may not be perceived at all, or may appear distorted, smeared or have small missing areas. We will all develop some degree of macular degeneration if we just live long enough. It usually shows its characteristic changes in our late 70's. In terms of acquired macular degeneration we need to remember that it comes in two basic forms, the dry type and the wet type. Statistically, for those of us with the disease 90% have the dry type and 10% have the wet type. While is seems reasonable that you have to have the dry type of change before you can get the wet, this does not always hold true.

Fortunately, the loss of vision with the dry type of acquired macular degeneration is usually not significant and very slow. However, it can end up being quite severe, leading to blindness. An extensive amount of research is going on in this area and studies have shown that uncontrolled blood pressure and smoking are two major risk factors for developing the more severe forms of macular degeneration. It has also been shown, that certain vitamins/anti-oxidants in specifically formulated combinations can provide some protective effect against acquired macular degeneration. However, it is important to be cautious over the use of vitamins/anti-oxidants, as no one has all the answers and certain concentrations with various medication/life style choices can cause unwanted problems in other areas of the body. At this point in the research, it would seem reasonable to say that a diet with more fresh fruits and fresh uncooked/steamed vegetables along with exercise and appropriate weight control could not hurt anything.

The wet form of acquired macular degeneration is usually much more serious and can result in a severe loss of vision, leading to blindness, quickly. Treatment with lasers and or intra-ocular injections with the new class of anti-angiogenic agents has shown promise to slow, reverse or halt the progression of the disease. Many factors influence the outcome, but a common theme is that the sooner the problem is identified and treated, the more likely the outcome would be as favorable as possible.

Frequent examination and specialized testing can help pick up on signs for the risk/development of the wet from of macular degeneration. Self-monitoring for this disorder can also be done with an Amsler Grid.

The role of UV light exposure and acquired macular degeneration is still unclear.

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Last Change: 27 November, 2013