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Diagnosing macular degeneration

In Americans over 60 years of age, macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss. According to the National Eye Institute, approximately 11 million Americans have age-related macular degeneration. The prevalence of macular degeneration has increased dramatically and the most significant risk factor is age. 

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Diagnosing macular degeneration Optometrist
Table of Contents

What is macular degeneration?

The number of people living with early-stage macular degeneration in the US was estimated to be 18 million in 2019 while the number of people living with late-stage macular degeneration was estimated to be 1.5 million.

Macular degeneration is often referred to as "age-related macular degeneration" because it is more common in older individuals. However, it is not a normal part of aging and can occur at any age.

Macular degeneration is a serious eye condition that affects the central portion of the retina, known as the macula. The macula is responsible for providing clear, sharp vision, and when it is damaged, it can result in serious vision loss. If you are experiencing any changes in your vision or other symptoms of macular degeneration, it is important to visit a qualified eye doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

How is macular degeneration diagnosed?

How is macular degeneration diagnosed?

Diagnosing macular degeneration typically involves a comprehensive eye exam. This may include testing your visual acuity, or the clarity of your vision, as well as examining the health of your retina and macula. Your eye doctor may also use specialized imaging tests, such as fundus photography, dark matter adaptation, or optical coherence tomography (OCT), to assess the health of your macula and detect any signs of damage or disease.

In addition to the eye exam, your eye doctor may ask about your medical history and any risk factors you may have for macular degeneration, such as age, family history, or lifestyle habits.

Once you've been diagnosed with macular degeneration, our eye doctor will work with you to monitor the condition and ensure that if there are signs of progression you are referred to a retinal specialist for a treatment plan to help slow the progression of the disease and preserve your vision. This may include medications, lifestyle changes, or specialized therapies, such as intravitreal injections.

Common symptoms of macular degeneration

  • Blurred or distorted central vision
  • Difficulty reading or performing other tasks that require fine vision
  • Decreased ability to see colors accurately or colors may seem brighter than normal
  • A dark or empty area in the center of your field of vision
  • Straight lines appearing wavy or distorted
  • Difficulty adjusting to changes in light 
  • Problems with driving at night 
  • Trouble seeing in low light 

 

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The role of a low vision optometrist for macular degeneration 

The role of a low vision optometrist for macular degeneration 

A low vision optometrist works hand in hand with your retinal specialist to ensure that you are maximizing your remaining vision. While the Ophthalmologist or retinal specialist is ensuring that the disease does not progress, the low vision optometrist is helping the patient use their remaining vision to its full potential. It is important to visit a low vision optometrist even if you have earlier stages of macular degeneration.

Types of macular degeneration

Macular degeneration can be classified into two types: dry and wet. Dry macular degeneration is the most common form of the disease and is characterized by the gradual thinning and atrophy of the macula. This type of macular degeneration usually progresses slowly and can lead to vision loss over time. Wet macular degeneration is a more aggressive form of the disease and is characterized by the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the macula. These blood vessels can leak fluid or blood, leading to rapid vision loss and scarring of the macula. Wet macular degeneration is less common, but it is more likely to cause severe vision loss.

How is macular degeneration diagnosed?

How can I find a low vision optometrist near me?

If you are searching for a low vision optometrist, it is important to choose a qualified and experienced professional. A local optometrist or local eye doctor that specializes in low vision and has experience with helping patients who have macular degeneration can provide you with the necessary care and support to manage your eye health and utilize your vision to its full potential. Simply search for "low vision eye doctor near me" or "low vision optometrist near me" to find a list of eye doctors in your area. You can also ask for recommendations from friends or family, or consult with your primary care doctor for a referral.

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