Dry macular degeneration is a common eye disorder among people over 65. It causes blurred or reduced central vision, due to thinning of the macula (MAK-u-luh). The macula is the part of the retina responsible for clear vision in your direct line of sight.
Dry macular degeneration may first develop in one eye and then affect both. Over time your vision worsens, which may affect your ability to do things such as read, drive and recognize faces. But this doesn't mean you'll lose all of your sight.
Early detection and self-care measures may delay vision loss due to dry macular degeneration.
Dry macular degeneration symptoms usually develop gradually and without pain. They may include:
Dry macular degeneration usually affects both eyes. If only one eye is affected, you may not notice any changes in your vision because your good eye may compensate for the weak eye. And the condition doesn't affect side (peripheral) vision, so it rarely causes total blindness.
Dry macular degeneration is one of two types of age-related macular degeneration. It can progress to wet (neovascular) macular degeneration, which is characterized by blood vessels that grow under the retina and leak. The dry type is more common, but it usually progresses slowly (over years). The wet type is more likely to cause a relatively sudden change in vision resulting in serious vision loss.
See your eye doctor if:
These changes may be the first indication of macular degeneration, particularly if you're over age 50.
No one knows exactly what causes dry macular degeneration. But research indicates it may be related to a combination of heredity and environmental factors, including smoking and diet.
The condition develops as the eye ages. Dry macular degeneration affects the macula â an area of the retina that's responsible for clear vision in your direct line of sight. Over time tissue in your macula may thin and break down.
Your doctor may diagnose your condition by reviewing your medical and family history and conducting a complete eye exam. He or she may also do several other tests, including:
People whose dry macular degeneration has progressed to central vision loss may experience depression or visual hallucinations. And dry macular degeneration may progress to wet macular degeneration, which can cause rapid vision loss if left untreated.
The following measures may help reduce your risk of developing dry macular degeneration:
Even after receiving a diagnosis of dry macular degeneration, you can take steps that may help slow vision loss.
Choose a healthy diet. The antioxidant vitamins in fruits and vegetables contribute to eye health. Kale, spinach, broccoli, peas and other vegetables have high levels of antioxidants, including lutein and zeaxanthin, which may benefit people with macular degeneration. Foods containing high levels of zinc may also be of particular value in patients with macular degeneration. These include high-protein foods, such as beef, pork and lamb. Nonmeat sources include milk, cheese, yogurt, whole-grain cereals and whole-wheat bread.
Another good choice is healthy unsaturated fats, such as olive oil. And research studies have shown that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as found in salmon, tuna and walnuts, may lower the risk for advanced AMD. But the same benefit is not shown from taking omega-3 supplements, such as fish oil pills.
For people with intermediate or advanced disease, taking a high-dose formulation of antioxidant vitamins and minerals may help reduce the risk of vision loss, the American Academy of Ophthalmology says. Research shows benefit in a formulation that includes:
The evidence doesn't show benefit in these supplements for people with early-stage dry macular degeneration. In addition, high doses of vitamin E may increase the risk of heart failure and other complications. Ask your doctor if taking supplements is right for you.
These tips may help you cope with your changing vision:
You may also use a closed-circuit television system that uses a video camera to magnify reading material and project it on a video screen.
Factors that may increase your risk of macular degeneration include: