Macular degeneration and retinal detachment are two conditions that affect the retina and can cause vision loss. The retina is a layer of special cells at the back of your eye that converts light to electrical signals.
Macular degeneration is the age-related breakdown of the central part of your retina called the macula.
Retinal detachment occurs when your retina is pulled away from the back of your eye. It can onset (appear) suddenly and requires immediate emergency medical attention to avoid permanent vision loss.
Here, we examine the similarities and differences between these two conditions.
Macular degeneration symptoms
- Early stage: Macular degeneration doesn’t cause symptoms in the early stages.
- Intermediate stage: You may or may not have mild symptoms in the intermediate stage. Symptoms can include:
- slight blurriness in your central vision
- Late stage: In the late stage, you may develop more severe symptoms such as:
- straight lines may look curved
- a blurry area near the center of your vision
- seeing blank spots in your central vision
- colors may look less vibrant
- worsening night vision
Types of macular degeneration
Macular degeneration is subdivided into two types:
- Dry macular degeneration: Dry macular degeneration occurs due to a thinning of your macula. It tends to progress slowly
over many yearsand makes up about 80% of cases.
- Wet macular degeneration: Wet macular degeneration occurs when atypical blood vessels grow in the back of your eyes. It usually causes faster vision loss but is easier to treat.
Retinal detachment symptoms
Retinal detachment is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.
Symptoms onset suddenly within hours or days. They can include:
Here’s a look at the causes of macular degeneration and retinal detachment.
Macular degeneration causes
Macular degeneration is caused by age-related changes to your retina. It’s very common and affects about
Risk factors for macular degeneration include:
- family history of the condition
- ultraviolet (UV) light exposure
- poor nutrition
- lack of exercise
Retinal detachment causes
No reverse link has been identified.
It’s important to see an eye doctor any time you notice changes to your vision, such as:
- trouble reading
- trouble seeing at night
Retinal detachment can cause permanent vision loss. Go to an emergency room or urgent care if you develop symptoms, such as
Macular degeneration and retinal detachment can be diagnosed with a dilated eye exam, where a doctor gives you eye drops to widen your pupil and then examines your retina. If they need more information, you may need to receive imaging tests like an ultrasound or optical coherence tomography (a type of imaging scan).
Here’s a look at the treatment options for these two conditions.
Macular degeneration treatment
Early stage macular degeneration doesn’t require specific treatment but is monitored with regular eye exams. If you have intermediate stage disease, your doctor may recommend AREDS 2 supplements.
If you have late stage wet macular degeneration, your doctor may recommend:
There’s no known effective treatment for late dry macular degeneration
Retinal detachment treatment
Freeze treatment (cryopexy) or laser surgery may be able to repair tiny holes or tears in your retina. Freeze treatment involves freezing your retina with extreme cold.
You may be able to
- quitting smoking if you smoke (this can be difficult, but a doctor can build a cessation plan that works for you)
- exercising regularly
- maintaining healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels
- eating healthy foods like leafy green vegetables and fatty fish
You can reduce your risk of retinal detachment by protecting your eyes by wearing protective eye gear when doing activities with a high risk of eye injury, such as contact sports or construction.
Here are some frequently asked questions people have about retinal detachment.
Is retinal detachment painful?
Retinal detachment is painless. The first noticeable symptoms may be floaters or flashes in your eyes.
How long before retinal detachment causes blindness?
Retinal detachment may cause loss of sight within hours or days. It’s important to get medical attention right away.
What should you avoid with retinal detachment?
If you recently had a detached retina, it’s best to avoid activities where you move your head quickly, such as lifting heavy objects or cleaning.
Retinal detachment and macular degeneration are two conditions that cause vision loss.
Macular degeneration is caused by age-related changes to your eye. It tends to develop slowly and doesn’t cause symptoms in the early stages.
Retinal detachment generally causes vision loss within hours to days. It requires immediate medical attention.