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How Macular Degeneration Develops

The central part of your retina, called the macula, records images you see and transmits them to your brain through the optic nerve. This is the part of your eye that allows you to read, recognize family and friends, and drive your car, so if it’s damaged, you stand to lose a lot of freedom and joy. 

Sadly, more than 11 million Americans over the age of 50 suffer from macular degeneration, making it the leading reason for central vision loss. Macular degeneration is also progressive and incurable, so catching it and treating early are your best options for slowing down or delaying the onset.

Come see our team of macular degeneration specialists at Wolchok Eye Associates, PA, in Jacksonville, Florida, if you belong to one of the high-risk groups:

We can determine if you have macular degeneration and, if so, which type you have. Once we have all the information, we can get you started on an effective treatment that may save your eyesight.

Types of macular degeneration 

There are two kinds of macular degeneration: dry (atrophic) and wet (exudative). By far, dry macular degeneration affects the majority of sufferers (85-90%), causing vision loss, as little deposits of drusen (small, yellow fatty proteins) develop in the macula. 

Wet macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula and retina, and they tend to leak fluid and blood into your retina and cause eyesight changes, like dark areas in your field of vision. 

How macular degeneration develops

It’s hard to tell if you have macular degeneration when it first begins. In fact, it’s asymptomatic, and only a qualified medical professional can detect the condition. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) typically progresses through three phases:

Early AMD

You probably won’t notice any symptoms, but we can detect clear indicators like medium-sized drusen when we perform an eye examination. 

Intermediate AMD

Although you still may not notice obvious symptoms, you might begin to notice some change in your eyesight, like blurry vision and wavy lines that should be straight. When we do an exam at this stage, we often see large deposits of drusen or pigment changes in your retina.

Late AMD

If you haven’t been getting regular eye exams, and you have vision loss in the center of your field of vision, trouble adapting to low light, difficulty recognizing faces, blurriness, or hazy vision, you may have late stage AMD. When we do an exam at this point, we see that the drusen and leaking blood vessels have become more prominent. 

Hope for macular degeneration

The early stages of AMD are treatable, and we can help you slow the progression of the condition considerably through supplements of key vitamins and minerals and lifestyle changes. 

Wet AMD responds better to advanced treatments such as laser surgery, photodynamic therapy (a combo of cold laser and medication), or injections that stop your body from producing vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGF), the protein responsible for growing those extra blood vessels in your eye. Known as anti-VEGF injections, this treatment may improve your vision and slow the progression of your AMD.

Whether you have, think you have, or hope you don’t have macular degeneration, your best defense is preparedness and prevention. Contact us today by phone or online to learn more about AMD and to schedule an appointment to get tested.

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