What Are The Causes of Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration is the name of a serious ocular condition that is one of the leading causes of vision loss in the United States. It is also much more common than you might expect, and studies estimate that as many as 11 million people in the United States are suffering from some form of macular degeneration, with this number being predicted to rise over the coming decade. You may also hear of the condition referred to as age-related macular degeneration or AMD.


What is macular degeneration and what causes it?

Macular degeneration is a condition that occurs as a result of the natural degeneration of an area at the back of the eye called the macula. The macula is an area of sensitive cells that are located near the center of the retina. The retina is the part of the eye that is responsible for intercepting light and converting it into messages which are sent up to the brain to tell us what we are seeing. The macula is responsible for the sharpness of our vision and enables us to see colors. When the macula becomes compromised, colors can become faded and our central vision can be adversely affected. This can make some day to day activities such as reading, watching television, driving and even recognizing faces more difficult.


The early stages of macular degeneration are thought to largely involve oxidative stress and inflammation. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body which can lead to cell and tissue damage. Oxidative stress can be caused by a variety of things including bright light, poor diet, and too much iron. Meanwhile, inflammation is a contributing factor in the development of many diseases including various eye diseases. 


The exact cause of macular degeneration isn’t always known. However, it has been linked to a variety of factors relating to an unhealthy lifestyle. These include the following:


- Gender. Approximately two-thirds of people with macular degeneration are women, whilst one third are men. 


  • Smoking. Research suggests that if you smoke, your risk of developing macular degeneration could be up to four times higher than someone who has never smoked. 


  • High blood pressure. Just like smoking, high blood pressure restricts the amount of oxygen that can reach your eyes, which could increase your risk of developing macular degeneration. 


  • Excessive sun exposure. Some studies indicate that prolonged exposure to harmful UV rays can potentially raise your risk of macular degeneration. 



Forms of macular degeneration

There are several different forms of macular degeneration:


Dry AMD. Dry AMD is the most common form of the condition and causes a very slow deterioration of the cells within the macula. This means that symptoms also develop slowly and there can be damage done to your central vision before you are fully aware of it. Despite its name, dry AMD doesn’t mean that your eyes are dry and shouldn’t be confused with a different ocular condition called dry eye syndrome. Instead, it is used to differentiate it from the other type of AMD which is known as wet AMD. 


Wet AMD. Wet AMD gets its name from the fact that it occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow into the macula which then leaks fluids and blood. This causes the macula to become scarred and vision to appear blurred. Unlike dry AMD, the wet variety tends to develop fairly quickly, and so urgent treatment is needed to prevent any further vision loss. 



Although there is no cure for macular degeneration, there are treatments available that can slow the disease and prevent you from suffering from severe vision loss. If you are concerned about macular degeneration, don’t hesitate to speak to our expert team today to schedule a consultation. 

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