Macular degeneration can lead to loss of central vision. You may see dark spots, crooked lines, or blurriness in the center of your eye, but still have good peripheral vision.
While the later stages of macular degeneration usually impact your eyesight the most and bring the most noticeable vision changes, you could have an earlier stage of this eye condition and not even know it.
In this article, you will learn about the different vision changes you might experience with different types of macular degeneration.
We’ll also help you understand what treatments might help you manage macular degeneration, and prevent your vision from getting worse as the condition progresses.
Generally speaking, macular degeneration damages your central vision.
In early stages of wet or dry age-related macular degeneration, you might just notice some blurriness in the middle of your visual field.
With more advanced stages of macular degeneration, blurriness or dark spots can appear in the center of your vision. Lines and shapes might also appear crooked or distorted.
One example: The grid pattern of the tiles in your bathroom may appear squiggly.
The edges of your visual field, or your peripheral vision, can remain fairly clear.
What is macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration is a progressive eye disease that develops with age for many people. It occurs when the macula (a small area of the retina about the size of a pencil eraser) begins to deteriorate. This part of the eye is what produces fine, focused vision in your central line of sight.
There are two types of macular degeneration:
- Wet age-related macular degeneration: This happens when blood vessels develop abnormally in the retina. These blood vessels cause damage to the macula, resulting in vision changes. Wet age-related macular degeneration is the less common form of macular degeneration, but it’s associated with symptoms that progress faster and lead to more severe vision loss.
- Dry age-related macular degeneration: This is the most common type of macular degeneration. Dry age-related macular degeneration can develop slowly over time without you even noticing early vision changes. It can develop in one or both eyes, but not every case of dry age-related macular degeneration becomes advanced.
You can learn more here about macular degeneration and the risk factors that play a part in the development of this eye condition.
How quickly your vision changes with macular degeneration depends on the type you have. Dry age-related macular degeneration is the most common type, making up around 90% of all cases of macular degeneration.
Early and intermediate phases of dry age-related macular degeneration tend to develop slowly over time, often with no symptoms in the early phases. Wet age-related macular degeneration, on the other hand, progresses much more quickly and often leads to more severe impairment.
Any stage of dry age-related macular degeneration can turn into wet age-related macular degeneration. But wet age-related macular degeneration is
Macular degeneration is a progressive eye disease for which there’s no cure.
There are no treatments that can cure or reverse the damage form macular degeneration, nor are any of these treatments very effective in late stages of wet or dry macular degeneration.
However, you may be able to take steps to slow down or stop the eye disease from getting worse.
In the early stages of dry age-related macular degeneration, there are some therapies that may help slow the progression of the disease.
In the early and intermediate stages of dry age-related macular degeneration, you may follow treatments to try and help slow the progression of the disease to more advanced stages. Those may include:
- a combination of vitamins known as
AREDS or AREDS2, which can slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration
- anti-VEGF injections into the eye, which can decrease swelling in the retina and reverse some vision loss by eliminating some abnormal blood vessel growth; you may need to repeat these injections over time
- quitting smoking can greatly reduce your chance of getting macular degeneration and slow down the progression
- eating a nutritious diet, including dark leafy green vegetables, may also slow the progression
For the intermediate stage of dry age-related macular degeneration, the following nutritional supplements may be used to help prevent progression to late-stage dry age-related macular degeneration:
- vitamin C
- vitamin E
Though current guidelines only advise using nutritional supplements for intermediate stage dry age-related macular degeneration, it wouldn’t hurt those in the earlier stage, either.
Talk with your healthcare team before starting any new vitamins or supplements because some supplements can interfere with prescription medications.
When the condition is diagnosed early, some treatments may slow the progression of macular degeneration. But none of them can undo vision damage caused by the condition.
Wet age-related macular degeneration has three treatment options:
- anti-VEGF medication injections
- photodynamic therapy that combines some of these medications with laser treatments
- laser photocoagulation to ablate retinal neovascularization
People with vision loss from macular degeneration often turn to visual aids and other assistive devices. Examples of devices that may be used to help support vision loss in people with macular degeneration include:
- large-print reading materials
- clocks and phones with large, high contrast numbers
- closed circuit television magnifiers
- handheld or desktop magnifiers
- telescopic devices
- other lighted reading devices
- eyeglasses with high powered lenses
- text-to-speech software or “talking” devices
People with later stages of macular degeneration may need help completing daily tasks, such as paying bills or cooking, and usually aren’t able to drive.
Your healthcare professional may be able to help you identify local services or community organizations that can help meet these basic needs if you or someone you love has vision loss from macular degeneration.
Macular degeneration is a progressive disease that can lead to severe loss of central vision. You might see dark spots or crooked lines in the center of your eye but still maintain good peripheral vision.
There are recommended treatments that may help slow the progression of this disease, but assistive devices like magnifiers and reading aids are often needed in the late stages of the disease if the vision is poor in both eyes.