Fine details are a part of life. The macula is a small area in the back of the retina that allows us to see objects straight ahead in a clear, sharp fashion. Age-related macular degeneration is a deterioration of the eye's macula resulting in vision loss. Although macular degeneration may be hereditary, there are other causes as well: oxidative stress, inflammation, smoking, high blood pressure, and abnormal cholesterol.
During your exam your doctor routinely checks your macula for changes in pigmentation. The best way to thoroughly examine, and compare, your macula is by having a photo taken of your eye. He can also look at the back of your eye by using a special lens during the slit lamp microscope portion of your exam. Pigment changes in the macula appear in the formation of drusen and sometimes in the growth of abnormal blood vessels.
If your doctor believes you show signs of macular degeneration, he will order an in-house test using our Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) machine. This machine allows him to see the layers of the retina and macula. Here, he can interpret the test to determine what form of macular degeneration exists and monitor your condition. There are two forms of macular degeneration: dry, also known as atrophic or non-neovascular, and wet, known as exudative or neovascular.
With dry macular degeneration, the tissues of the macula thin and stop working properly. Your doctor will advise on dietary changes and supplements to take as there is no cure for dry macular degeneration. Taking control of your nutrition will slow gradual vision loss.
Wet macular degeneration causes rapid loss of vision. With the wet form, blood vessels have abnormally grown and are leaking under the macula. Treatment is available if detected early: laser treatment and/or injections. Although these treatments help minimize vision loss, there is no cure.
Having routine eye examinations allow your optometrist to monitor your eye for changes. Many vision threatening conditions have little to no symptoms. Some changes in vision can be detected by using an Amsler Grid at home. The doctor will provide you with a grid and instructions on use. He will also request you return for special testing every few months to monitor your eye health.