What is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in those aged 65 and over in Australia. When it affects older adults, the condition is referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Macular degeneration happens in stages, so it's critical to know its symptoms and risk factors. If you can identify the signs of macular degeneration, you can take action and seek help from an eye doctor before the condition escalates.
What is macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration is a degenerative condition that affects the macula, which is the central part of the retina. This results in the distortion or loss of central vision. If the condition progresses to the final and most severe stage, it will become one of two types of AMD — dry macular degeneration or wet macular degeneration.
With the dry version, the tissue in your macula gradually thins and loses the cells responsible for vision. The wet version, on the other hand, occurs due to a fibrovascular membrane growing under the retina. This could potentially lead to localised retinal detachment. Between the two, wet macular degeneration can result in more significant vision loss. Fortunately, dry macular degeneration is the far more common type of this disease.
The stages of Macular Degeneration
As stated above, age-related macular degeneration is a degenerative condition. There are three stages of AMD based on the number of drusen on the retina.
Drusen are tiny yellow or white spots made up of proteins and fatty substances. They're not visible to the naked eye, but they can be identified by an eye doctor during an exam. They're the defining feature of AMD, as they can result in central vision loss and indicate what stage of age-related macular degeneration you're experiencing.
1. Early stage — During this initial stage, the quantity of drusen on the retina is comparatively low, and noticeable symptoms are unlikely.
2. Intermediate stage — The quantity of drusen is higher than it was in the early stage. People in the intermediate stage of AMD may begin experiencing vision loss.
3. Later stage: — In the later stage of AMD, the quantity of drusen is quite high. This will lead to very noticeable symptoms, namely central vision loss. It's at this point that AMD will be split into the dry type or wet type.
- Dry type: This type of AMD is quite common in terms of age and begins with very minor symptoms. With the increase in age, these minor symptoms continue to increase in their effect/size. This increase can also lead to the wet type of AMD. The cells of light-sensitivity in the macula gradually collapse affecting the central visual field of the eye. Considering the gradual increase of the dry type, it is imperative for this type of AMD to occur generally via genetics thereby proving dry AMD one of the main causes for vision loss in those who are older.
- Wet type: The growth of blood vessels becomes irregular due to the leakage of blood and fluid below the macula. This leads to an injury of the retina and also the damage of light-sensitive cells that form the macula. The irregular growth of blood vessels can also result in to their growth across the retina. The magnitude of vision loss tends to be more in Wet AMD than Dry AMD as mentioned above. The occurrence of vision loss in this type is mostly dramatic.