Dry Macular Degeneration: What It Is and What You Should Know

What is Dry Macular Degeneration?

According to the Mayo Clinic, dry macular degeneration is a common eye condition, typically experienced by people 65 and older. Although the condition can begin in one eye and eventually affect the other causing blurred vision, blindness is not always a side effect.

The American Macular Degeneration Foundation classifies macular degeneration into two types – dry and wet.  Dry macular degeneration is more common than wet, consisting of about 85-90 percent of all macular degeneration cases. People with this type of condition experience limited or blurred central and night vision, as well as trouble reading and seeing in poorly illuminated conditions.

What Causes Dry Macular Degeneration?

Dry macular degeneration is caused by the formation of drusen, which are small yellow deposits, under the macula. The macula is an oval shaped, pigmented area near the center of the retina, necessary for providing clear vision. Drusen, though typically not harmful, can increase macular degeneration by thinning and drying out the macula, causing it to slowly lose its functionality.

What are the Risks Factors of Inducing Dry Macular Degeneration?

Just like any condition or disease, there are risk factors you can take precautions against and others that are unavoidable.

Preventative Risk Factors include:

  • Smoking: cigarettes and tobacco usage can increase macular degeneration.
  • Obesity: Studies have shown that being obese and overweight can increase macular degeneration and in some cases, assist in progressing the stages of degeneration.

Predetermined Risk Factors include:

  • Age: Dry macular degeneration is seen in people 65 and older.
  • Race: Studies have shown that dry macular degeneration is more common in Caucasian people.
  • Genetics: Dry macular degeneration research has shown that this disease is genetic, caused by unavoidable heredity factors in genes.
  • Heart Disease: If you have a family history of cardiovascular disease, then you have a higher risk of dry macular degeneration. However, steps can be taken to prevent both diseases, such as having a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

How To Help Prevent Dry Macular Degeneration?

Dry macular degeneration may progress into more severe forms, such as wet macular degeneration.  You can help prevent dry macular degeneration by regularly scheduling eye examinations with your ophthalmologist, in which your doctor will dilate your pupils and use a specialized magnifying lens to examine any obscurities in your retina. Of course, you can also lower your risks of dry macular degeneration by maintaining a healthy weight and exercise regime. Eating fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants, as well as eating fish with Omega-3 fatty acids can also help prevent macular degeneration.

Some factors are not preventable, as previously discussed, such as hereditary genes, race and age. However, by taking these simple steps in a healthy lifestyle and lowering your risks, you can help curb the onset of dry macular degeneration.