Many seniors experience some degree of vision loss in older age, but Macular Degeneration can impact the ways in which seniors experience vision loss.
Understanding Macular Degeneration and the ways in which it can alter seniors’ vision can help seniors and their caregivers to watch out for early signs and know how to proceed in terms of seeking support.
What is Macular Degeneration?
At the very center of the retina lies a portion of the eye known as the Macula. The Macula is responsible for helping us to see things that require precision focus on details and small elements.
Macular Degeneration is a condition of the eyes that impacts the Macula. Under the umbrella of Macular Degeneration, there are two different types: Dry and Wet.
The vast majority of cases of Macular Degeneration are the Dry variety, which takes place when deposits accumulate on the Macula following the breakdown of photo receptor cells on the retina. Seniors with Dry Macular Degeneration will notice that details become distorted and seeing small things becomes more challenging.
Wet Macular Degeneration is less common than Dry, and occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow in a fine layer of cells within the Macula (known as the Choroid). Vision Loss with Wet Macular Degeneration can be severe, as leakage of protein and blood cause significant blurring and distortion.
In some cases, Dry Macular Degeneration can develop into Wet, so it is always important to consult a healthcare professional to address symptoms early and make sure proper attention is being payed to the needs of the eyes.
Developing Macular Degeneration
People ages 60 and over are at an increased risk of developing Macular Degeneration. Macular Degeneration also tends to run in families (at the level of immediate relatives), so knowing your parents’ or siblings’ history with vision problems and sharing that information with healthcare professionals can be important for assessing risk factors.
The initial symptoms that come along with the development of Macular Degeneration tend to come in the form of visual distortions that make things look a little wonky, such as wavy lines and blurring of details.
It is incredibly important to note that Macular Degeneration is not associated with any pain, so seniors should always make sure that they are seeing their doctor regularly and getting their eyes checked on a proper routine rather than waiting for something to start to feel wrong.
Living with Macular Degeneration
Everyone’s experience with Macular Degeneration will be different and the speed and ways in which the condition progresses will be specific to each person. Learning to live with Macular Degeneration requires some adjustments, and as the condition continues to impact the eyes, many seniors do end up legally blind. Complete vision loss is a possibility also. Adjusting to changes in vision can be a challenge as seniors learn to navigate which things they can still easily do alone and which things now require a bit of assistance.
There is no cure for Macular Degeneration, but there are treatments that can help to slow the progression of the condition. Speaking to a healthcare professional can illuminate the options that might be possible in an individual senior’s case.
Being open and discussing concerns and developments with family members, caregivers, and a healthcare professional can help seniors to better adjust to the new realities that accompany vision challenges.
In attempting to prevent conditions of the eyes such as Macular Degeneration, there are some general lifestyle choices that can help promote better eye-health.
- See the Eye Doctor Regularly
- Protect Eyes from the Sun
- Eat Well (Dark Leafy Greens, Nuts, and Fruit)
- Manage Cholesterol
- Manage Blood Pressure
- No Smoking
Thinking early about eye care and making choices that aim to promote healthy vision can help to keep seniors eyes healthy and working at their best for longer.