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Patient Guide to Dry Macular Degeneration

Oct 14 2019

Posted In:

20/20 Blog

Palo Alto, CA – Dry macular degeneration is a common eye condition that usually occurs in people over 50. It is characterized by blurring of the central vision along with a decreased ability to see colors and fine details. Although it does not impact peripheral vision, it can impact every day activities like reading and driving.

In order to control dry macular degeneration, it is crucial to have routine eye exams as you age. To check your general eye health, or if you are experiencing central vision loss, even if it is very mild, you can make an appointment with Vinit Mahajan M.D., Ph.D., Stanford retina specialist and Chair of Research for Ophthalmology, to start a prevention or treatment plan.

What causes dry macular degeneration?

Dry macular degeneration is an eye disease that affects the macula, the center of the retina that determines how we see fine details and bright colors. Dr. Mahajan will look inside the eye at the retina to evaluate the health of the macula using ophthalmoscopy and specialized retinal photography. More often than not, patients with central vision loss have a thinning macula. 

Who is prone to dry macular degeneration?

Both genetic and environmental factors seem to play a role in whether or not someone develops dry macular degeneration. Several genes have been found by researchers to be related to the condition, and Dr. Mahajan is conducting genetic research with patients. Age, smoking, obesity, and cardiovascular disease can also put people at risk for vision loss. 

How quickly does dry macular degeneration progress?

The progression of dry macular degeneration varies from patient to patient. The disease can progress so slowly that vision loss is hardly noticeable, but it can also progress so fast that vision loss occurs in one eye and sometimes in the other over a relatively short period of time.

What is the treatment for dry macular degeneration?

Early detection of dry macular degeneration by an ophthalmologist is critical, since there currently is no treatment for the disease in its advanced stage. In its earliest stage, when there are small yellow deposits under the retina called drusen, Dr. Mahajan may recommend a specific antioxidant vitamin formulation validated by the National Eye Institute. Dr. Mahajan also said, “In general what’s good for your heart is good for your eyes. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fatty fish along with regular exercise may decrease the risk of vision loss.

How can dry macular degeneration be prevented?

Although no prevention measures can guarantee you won’t get dry macular degeneration, lifestyle choices can improve your chances of warding off the disease. Get routine eye exams and physicals, and take medication prescribed by a doctor for cardiovascular health. Don’t smoke, exercise daily to manage weight gain, and choose a diet rich in fruits, vegetable, and fatty fish. 

What is the difference between dry and wet macular degeneration?

Wet macular degeneration is where abnormal blood vessels leak under the macula causing permanent vision loss. In some cases, dry macular degeneration progresses to wet macular degeneration. An effective treatment for wet macular degeneration is an eye injection of anti-VEGF drugs, which can control the leaking blood vessels.