What is dry macular degeneration?
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.
How common is dry macular degeneration?
Dry macular degeneration is a common eye disorder among people over 65. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of dry macular degeneration?
The common symptoms of dry macular degeneration are:
- Visual distortions, such as straight lines seeming bent
- Reduced central vision in one or both eyes
- The need for brighter light when reading or doing close work
- Increased difficulty adapting to low light levels, such as when entering a dimly lit restaurant
- Increased blurriness of printed words
- Decreased intensity or brightness of colors
- Difficulty recognizing faces
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.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- You notice changes in your central vision
- Your ability to see colors and fine detail becomes impaired
These changes may be the first indication of macular degeneration, particularly if you’re over age 50.
What causes dry macular degeneration?
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 — 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.
What increases my risk for dry macular degeneration?
There are many risk factors for dry macular degeneration, such as:
- This disease is most common in people over 65.
- Family history and genetics. This disease has a hereditary component. Researchers have identified several genes that are related to developing the condition.
- Macular degeneration is more common in whites than it is in other people.
- Smoking cigarettes or being regularly exposed to smoke significantly increases your risk of macular degeneration.
- Research indicates that being obese may increase your chance that early or intermediate macular degeneration will progress to the more severe form of the disease.
- Cardiovascular disease. If you have had diseases that affected your heart and blood vessels, you may be at higher risk of macular degeneration.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is dry macular degeneration diagnosed?
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:
- Examination of the back of your eye. Your eye doctor will put drops in your eyes to dilate them and use a special instrument to examine the back of your eye. He or she will look for a mottled appearance that’s caused by drusen — yellow deposits that form under the retina. People with macular degeneration often have many drusen.
- Test for defects in the center of your vision. During an eye examination, your eye doctor may use an Amsler grid to test for defects in the center of your vision. Macular degeneration may cause some of the straight lines in the grid to look faded, broken or distorted.
- Fluorescein angiography. During this test, your doctor injects a colored dye into a vein in your arm. The dye travels to and highlights the blood vessels in your eye. A special camera takes several pictures as the dye travels through the blood vessels. The images will show if you have abnormal blood vessel or retinal changes.
- Indocyanine green angiography. Like fluorescein angiography, this test uses an injected dye. It may be used to confirm the findings of a fluorescein angiography or to identify specific types of macular degeneration.
- Optical coherence tomography. This noninvasive imaging test displays detailed cross-sectional images of the retina. It identifies areas of retina thinning, thickening or swelling. These can be caused by fluid accumulations from leaking blood vessels in and under your retina.
How is dry macular degeneration treated?
Dry macular degeneration can’t be cured. If your condition is diagnosed early, you can take steps to help slow its progression, such as taking vitamin supplements, eating healthfully and not smoking.
Low vision rehabilitation
Age-related macular degeneration doesn’t affect your side (peripheral) vision and usually doesn’t cause total blindness. But it can reduce or eliminate your central vision — which is necessary for driving an automobile, reading and recognizing people’s faces. It may be beneficial for you to work with a low vision rehabilitation specialist, occupational therapist, your eye doctor and others trained in low vision rehabilitation. They can help you find ways to adapt to your changing vision
Surgery to implant a telescopic lens
For selected people with advanced dry macular degeneration in both eyes, one option to improve vision may be surgery to implant a telescopic lens in one eye. The telescopic lens, which looks like a tiny plastic tube, is equipped with lenses that magnify your field of vision. The telescopic lens implant may improve both distance and close-up vision, but it has a very narrow field of view. It can be particularly useful in an urban environment to aid in identifying street signs.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage dry macular degeneration?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with dry macular degeneration:
- Don’t smoke. If you smoke, ask your doctor for help to quit.
- 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.
- Manage your other medical conditions. If you have cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure, for example, take your medication and follow your doctor’s instructions for controlling the condition.
- Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. If you need to lose weight, reduce the number of calories you eat and increase the amount of exercise you get each day. Maintain a healthy weight by exercising regularly and controlling your diet.
- Have routine eye exams. Ask your eye doctor about the recommended schedule for follow-up exams. In between checkups, you can do a self-assessment of your vision using an Amsler grid. These steps will help identify if your condition develops into wet macular degeneration, which can be treated with drugs.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Dry macular degeneration. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dry-macular-degeneration/symptoms-causes/syc-20350375. Accessed November 21, 2017.
Treatments for Dry Macular Degeneration. https://www.brightfocus.org/macular/dry-macular-degeneration/treatments. Accessed November 21, 2017.
Review Date: November 21, 2017 | Last Modified: November 21, 2017