Although the exact causes for the development of macular degeneration are unknown, there are some risk factors that can ascertain its development and progression. Factors that may increase the risk of falling prey to ARMD include:
- Age: like many other diseases, the risk of developing ARMD increase with age. Although it may occur to middle aged people too, research shows people over 75 have a 30% chance of developing ARMD.
- Genetic Inheritance: If your family has a history of macular degeneration, you’re more likely to develop the condition.
- Race: Macular degeneration is more common in Caucasians, especially aboriginal to North America and Canada than it is in other races.
- Smoking: Smoking cigarettes enhances your risk of developing macular degeneration.
- Obesity: Being overweight increases the chances of early or intermediate macular degeneration to progress to the more severe stages of the disease.
- Unhealthy diet: A diet that lacks fruits and vegetables may increase the risk of macular degeneration.
- Heart Related Diseases: If you have had diseases that affected your heart and blood vessels, you may be at a higher risk of developing macular degeneration
- Elevated Blood Cholesterol: Higher levels of cholesterol are often linked to macular degeneration.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
Neither of the forms of age related macular degeneration cause any eye pain. The earliest symptom though, in dry ARMD is blurred vision. As a smaller amount of cells in the macula function properly, the individual will see things less clearly in front of them. Problems in recognizing faces or reading books may occur.
Bright light may cause the blurred vision to go away temporarily. As the loss of these light-sensing cells increases, people may see a small black or gray blind spot in the center of their field of vision. Other symptoms include reduced night vision, reduction in the intensity or clarity of colors, increase in the haziness of vision in general. Dry age related macular degeneration may affect just one eye or both. If only one eye is affected, it may be hard to notice the symptoms, because the other eye has no symptoms and no vision problems.
In addition to all of the above symptoms, an additional symptom in the wet form of ARMD is the appearance of straight lines in a crooked or wavy manner. This happens when fluid from the leaking blood vessels collects within the macula and lifts it off its normal location. As a consequence, vision is distorted. Large areas of gray or black in the center of the field of vision may also occur. The central vision may reduce over a shorter period of time.
Diagnosing Macular Degeneration
In both dry and wet types of age related macular degeneration, an eye care professional may find reduced visual clarity (acuity) with preservation of peripheral vision and transformation in the retina visible with an ophthalmoscope.
ARMD can often be diagnosed in its earlier stages, during a comprehensive eye exam in patients without major symptoms. This eye test includes having drops placed in your eyes to enlarge or dilate the pupils, allowing the ophthalmologist to examine the central portion of the retina.