Common Symptoms that Could Signal Macular Degeneration

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the main cause of age-related vision loss in America is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Almost 15 million Americans currently suffer from this form of vision loss. Because AMD can worsen over time, management of this condition is critical to retaining your eyesight.

Dr. Jacob West at West Vision in Tyler, Texas diagnoses eye conditions and helps patients maintain healthy vision for themselves and their families. He manages vision care for those with AMD who are dealing with some of the common symptoms listed below.

What is macular degeneration?

Your eyeball is made of many parts, including the retina in the back of the eye. The retina is responsible for recording images and then sending them through your optic nerve. The optic nerve travels between your eye and your brain. That’s how we see the world around us.

The central part of your retina is called the macula, and its job is to focus the central part of your vision on an image, helping you read, drive, and recognize faces. The macula is basically your body’s camera lens. So, when the cells within the macula begin to deteriorate, your brain stops receiving clear images. This is AMD, and if it progresses without treatment or maintenance, the central portion of your vision will be completely lost.

Different types of macular degeneration

The two kinds of AMD are called dry (exudative) and wet (atrophic). Most sufferers have dry AMD. This kind of vision loss is caused by little deposits of drusen that develop in the macula. Drusen are small yellow lipids or fatty proteins. They’re kind of like little pebbles being deposited into your macula.

Only 10 to 15% of people with AMD have a wet diagnosis. The wet type of this disease happens when some abnormal blood vessels pop up underneath the macula and retina. These unneeded blood vessels cause dark spots in a person’s vision because they bleed or leak fluid.

Common symptoms of macular degeneration

Because so many millions of Americans suffer from AMD, it’s considered a common eye disorder. Keep in mind that you’re more likely to notice the symptoms when they appear in both eyes. When things go wrong in one eye, the other eye can partially compensate for the loss. According to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF), there are three stages of symptoms.

Early symptoms

In the early stages of AMD, Dr. West may notice the presence of drusen and begin a treatment plan. Some early signs of AMD can be caught quickly with regular check-ups with us at West Vision. 

Intermediate symptoms

You may notice some loss of vision at this point, but it might not even be noticeable. A comprehensive eye exam is recommended to check for large deposits of drusen or pigment changes in your retina. This is the point when drusen or leaking blood vessels will become more obvious.

Late symptoms

Late-stage AMD symptoms include noticeable vision loss. Treating AMD while you’re experiencing the early symptoms can be vital in keeping your vision.

Some other symptoms that you may notice at any stage are:

You may also notice that symptoms rapidly progress.

Treatment for macular degeneration

According to the AMDF, the treatment for early dry AMD may be as simple as nutritional therapy. The organization recommends including the following combination of supplements into your diet:

Tufts Medical Center in Boston has created a formula that includes all of these antioxidants, carotenoids, and omega-3 fatty acids which they recommend for those with early signs of AMD. Beyond that, the only treatment is low-vision therapy.

For those with the wet form, the drug bevacizumab, originally used for colon cancer, can reduce blood vessel growth when injected into the eye. This anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) therapy has been highly successful for most patients, and the effects last for around a month. Maintenance shots are a must.

AMD is a progressive disease, so if you’ve noticed any of these symptoms or issues, please don’t hesitate to contact Dr. West by calling 903-243-9978 or using our convenient online scheduling tool.

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