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Last updated on November 24th, 2023.

Macular degeneration is a disease that appears more often in older people than younger people. Whether you or a loved one have the disease, it can be horrifying to hear this term. What is macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration is an incurable eye disease that causes vision loss. It’s typically caused by the degeneration of the retina, though it can also happen by excess blood vessel growth. It affects more than ten million Americans today.

Read on to learn more about macular degeneration. We’ll talk about the causes of this disease, what’s happening in the eyes, and possible treatments. Let’s get started!

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When Was Macular Degeneration First Observed?

People have known about macular degeneration for a long time, but it took a while for scientists to grasp the disease. The earliest descriptions appeared around 1850, but it wasn’t until 1970 that more information surfaced on macular degeneration.

In recent years, we have found secondary care options for people with wet macular degeneration, and dry macular degeneration only has a couple of care options. Knowledge is advancing, but slowly.

Although there is more information left to uncover about the disease, the discovery of macular degeneration improved the quality of life greatly for many elderly and young people. It will be exciting to see what information will be found in recent years.

What is the Main Cause of Macular Degeneration?

Unfortunately, there is a lot we don’t know about macular degeneration. No one is certain what causes this disease to surface, particularly in the later years of life. There are, however, a few items that scientists believe might influence the development of the disease. Dry macular degeneration is less understood than wet macular degeneration.

A few potential causes of macular degeneration include:

  • Obesity
  • Diet
  • Smoking
  • Leaking blood vessels

A mix of environmental and genetic factors could cause macular degeneration.

The cause of wet macular degeneration is determined, but the cause of dry macular degeneration is a mystery to scholars. Hopefully, the future will unlock more information about this common disease. It can come on suddenly with little warning to even the healthiest people.

What's Happening in the Eye With Macular Degeneration?

There are two types of macular degeneration – dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration. The latter is the rarer of the two and more common in younger people diagnosed with macular degeneration. In both types, there is something different happening.

Here are the two forefront issues at hand:

  • Wet macular degeneration is the deterioration of the retinas
  • Dry macular degeneration is excess blood vessel growth

These can cause blurry vision or a blind spot in the eye, and some cause blindness.

Let’s dive into each of these occurrences to provide a better idea of what happens in the eye during macular degeneration. The more you know, the better prepared you can be if the disease happens to you or someone you love.

Retinal Deterioration

Dry macular degeneration happens when the cell structure of the macula starts to break down. Drusen, which is a yellow protein deposit, gathers under the retina. Over time, this protein causes the macular to break down, which results in vision loss. At the beginning of the disease, vision is blurry. As it progresses, the sight will fade away.

Retinal deterioration can never cause complete blindness, but it can take away most of a person’s vision. Dry macular degeneration is more common in the older generation than the younger, though cases have appeared in both.

There are three stages of retinal deterioration – early, intermediate, and advanced. It doesn’t take too long for the retinal deterioration to go from blurry to spotty. Retinal deterioration can happen fast once it gets to the advanced stages.

Excess Blood Vessel Growth

Excess vessel growth is the cause of wet macular degeneration. It’s accountable for 10% of cases and is more common in younger people. Unfortunately, wet macular degeneration can cause blindness.

The Bruch’s membrane breaks down, and new blood vessels start to grow in their place. These are fragile and full of blood and fluid. If they leak, they can cause severe damage and scar right away.

Sometimes, it can only take days for someone with wet macular degeneration to lose their vision. It’s the scarier of the two types of macular degeneration, and the least is known about it.

What is the Best Treatment for Macular Degeneration?

There are two different treatments for each type of macular degeneration. Neither is a cure, but they can help the patient impacted significantly. The treatment process for wet macular degeneration is a little more terrifying than dry macular degeneration. However, both can help.

Here are the best treatments for each type of macular degeneration:

  • Wet macular degeneration: The most prominent treatment is laser photocoagulation. This process reduces the risk of further vision loss due to blood vessel growth.
  • Dry macular degeneration: The best treatment is nutritional therapy. It’s high in antioxidants to provide support for the macula.

The treatment also depends on how escalated the disease is in the eyes.

Laser treatment is the most prominent treatment for wet macular degeneration, but patients can also utilize anti-VEGF therapy. Those who have experienced an escalation in dry macular degeneration can take supplements to support the structure of the eye. There are quite a few options out there.

Final Thoughts on Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a common disease that causes blurry vision and blind spots in the eyes of those affected. Although it’s been around for a long time, only within the last fifty years have real strides been made to help those experiencing side effects from the disease.

We hope this information has been helpful! Macular degeneration can be scary, but it’s a relatively common disease that many doctors are ready to help out with. The hope is that even more information will become clear about macular degeneration.

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