According to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation, macular degeneration affects more than 10 million Americans, making it the top cause of vision loss in the United States. While there's no cure for macular degeneration, there are treatments that can delay the progression of the disease. Many people don't have noticeable symptoms during the early stages of the disease, so it's important to have regular eye exams, particularly if you have additional risk factors that increase your chance of developing macular degeneration.
- Age: Macular degeneration typically presents in people 55 and older, so as you age it's more important than ever to see your eye doctor regularly. Advancing age is the biggest risk factor for the disease.
- Smoking: Smoking doubles the risk of age-related macular degeneration, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation. Work with your doctor on strategies to help you quit smoking to help lower your risk.
- Caucasian race: Caucasians have a greater risk of macular degeneration than people of other races.
- Family history: Macular degeneration has a genetic component, so get tested regularly and let your eye doctor and general practitioner know if anyone in your family has ever been diagnosed with macular degeneration.
- Obesity: Obesity isn't good for your health in any sense, and that includes your eyes. A 2003 study published in Archives of Ophthalmology found that overweight and obese patients had more than double the chance of being diagnosed with macular degeneration than study participants with normal body weights, explains AllAboutVision.com.
Tests for Early Macular Degeneration
A doctor can detect several early signs of macular degeneration during a normal eye exam. Your doctor will look for yellow specks under your retina that you wouldn't be able to see. These deposits are called drusen, and they're one of the most common early signs of the disease.
The doctor will also have you look at a grid pattern, called an Amsler Grid, to determine if you have any signs of blurred or distorted vision. You'll look at the grid with one eye covered, focusing on a spot in the middle and let your doctor know whether you can see all of the lines clearly, explains the Macular Degeneration Partnership.
If you have any early signs of the disease, your eye doctor will perform a further test by taking a picture of your eye to help determine the type and extent of the disease. There are two types of tests used:
- Optical coherence tomography (OMT): This test is not invasive, and it doesn't hurt. A special camera will take pictures of your dilated eyes so the doctor can examine your retina more thoroughly and determine the extent of the disease.
- Angiography: This test shows blood vessels in your eye that can't be seen by just looking at your eyes. You'll have a dye injected into your arm, and your ophthalmologist will take pictures as the dye moves through your bloodstream. This test is important because it helps diagnose neovascular or "wet" age-related macular degeneration, a type of the disease that can progress very quickly, explains the National Eye Institute.
For professional eye care, contact a company such as Malkani Retina Center.