Macular Degeneration has a significant impact on the quality of life enjoyed by its sufferers, however when most people are diagnosed with the disease, they know very little about what is macular degeneration, and what causes it, or indeed what the long term prospects are regarding the outcome of the deteriorative process.
Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is a group of unrelated conditions that affect the small central part of the retina just behind the pupil. The Macula is the part of the eye that has the greatest concentration of the light sensitive cells that allow us to see details. It is the part of the eye that we especially use when we read, or look directly in front of us. See Basic Structure of the Human Eye.
There are two main types of ARMD.
The most common, dry ARMD is caused by the calcification of the tiny blood vessels in the back of the eye thanks to being clogged up with fatty deposits. This restricts the blood getting to the cells in the back of the eye, starving them of nutrients, and causing them to die off over time. The symptoms of the condition vary from person to person, but include gradually fading sight in the centre of the field of vision, slight distortions and blurring of what people can see.
The long term prospects of patients diagnosed with dry ARMD are not that promising.
There is currently no really effective treatment to immediately halt the progress of the disorder, and the only thing that anyone can hope for is to slow it down, and this is generally achieved by making changes to the diet and health in order to reduce the impact of the disorder.
The less common variant of ARMD is wet.
It is caused by the growth of new blood vessels in the retina, which due to the high blood pressure of the sufferer, leak blood onto the inner surface of the eye. Wet ARMD tends to be a faster developing condition than its dry counterpart, and many sufferers find that their sight can disappear overnight.
Although wet ARMD is more instantly severe than other types, it is more treatable, thanks to a number of new drugs that are available. Both laser therapy to close up new blood vessels, and also drugs to inhibit the damage are widely available.
Although recovery from either type of ARMD is limited, it is still the case that most sufferers are able to go on to enjoy a relatively normal life if they get treatment early enough in the progress of the disease. By regularly visiting an optician for a comprehensive eye test that includes examination of the retina, the early stages of ARMD can be discovered, and treatment can be applied before the condition can get too serious. The earlier treatment is sought for ARMD, the better, as the less damage is done to the eye when the degeneration is slowed, the more sight will be retained in the long term.