(WellnessPursuits.com) – Approximately 11 million Americans have age-related macular degeneration, the primary cause of vision loss for seniors who are at least 60 years old. Damage from macular degeneration is irreversible, so it’s important to act quickly if you notice possible symptoms. Familiarize yourself with the signs and risk factors for this common condition so you can protect your vision.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration symptoms range from mild to severe, depending on the type of disease you have and how far it has progressed. You may notice blurred vision that isn’t corrected when you wear glasses, and you may struggle to read books or identify faces. Straight lines may look wavy, and you may notice your eyes are more sensitive than usual. But one of the classic symptoms of macular degeneration is the appearance of a gray, dark, or empty area in the center of your vision.
Talk to your doctor if you notice these symptoms or similar issues, even if you’re decades away from your senior years. Experts recommend that adults aged 40 and older undergo a vision check for macular degeneration at least once every 2 to 3 years.
Risk Factors for Macular Degeneration
Sometimes genetic factors trigger macular degeneration, but the disease also stems from lifestyle choices, including smoking, drinking and excess sun exposure. You may also develop this disease if you are obese, have untreated hypertension or a history of heart disease.
Women are more likely than men to develop macular degeneration, possibly because they often outlive their male counterparts. If you’ve previously suffered a heart attack or stroke, you’re 1.5 times more likely to get macular degeneration than someone who hasn’t.
Macular Degeneration: The Basics
Macular degeneration is a chronic eye disease that often affects seniors, though some children also experience symptoms. This disease occurs when the macula, which is the center of your retina, becomes damaged. Due to genetics, sometimes this happens naturally with age, but lifestyle choices such as smoking or poor dietary habits can also lead to macular degeneration.
There are two types of age-related macular degeneration (AMD): wet and dry. Dry AMD affects up to 9 out of 10 people with this disease, and it often has less of an impact on your vision than wet AMD. It occurs when drusen, a blend of fat bits and protein, gets trapped under your retina.
With wet AMD, extra blood vessels form underneath the macula. Sometimes these blood vessels leak into the eye, possibly in an attempt to get rid of drusen. This can cause irreversible damage that often occurs much quicker than damage from dry AMD.
This eye disease isn’t yet curable, but there is hope. Regular check-ups are key. With early detection and specific treatments aimed at your type of macular degeneration, you may experience fewer symptoms and a slower progression of the disease.
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