If you’ve ever heard of macular degeneration and you’re under the age of 50, you’ve likely heard of this horrific disease because one of your grandparents had it. It’s a common vision disease among the elderly but many people have no idea how terrifying this disease can be. Macular degeneration causes a slow deterioration of the eye that eventually leads someone, who may not have worn glasses in their lives, to blindness. It’s true that people who have never had any vision problems and have had perfect 20/20 vision for their entire lives can go blind from this disease.
Macular degeneration typically occurs within the elderly when the retina is damaged. It appears in two forms: wet and dry. Macular degeneration affects the macula part of the retina – which controls and details your central vision. The dry form allows for cellular debris, called drusen, to accumulate between the retina and the choroid – allowing the retina to become detached. In the wet version, the retina can also become detached but blood vessels grow up from the choroid behind the retina causing it to be more severe. Often times, it can be treated with laser coagulation and, in conjunction with medication, it can sometimes reverse the growth of the blood vessels.
For many elderly people, everything can change in one day when all of a sudden someones eyes begin blurring and they suddenly cannot make out the definition of objects as well as they used to. As one grand-daughter put it, “At the time she lamented to us that our grandmother had escaped the need for prescription eyeglasses for this long, she guessed she could make the small change and begin looking like others her age and invest in a pair of eyeglasses frames. It was only after a visit to her eye doctor that the painful truth was discovered that this condition would simply continue to worsen over time until my grandmother would eventually not be able to see at all. Interestingly, the fact that she had never worn a pair of glasses before set her in the majority of macular degeneration sufferers who also had never had to worry about any lack or loss of sight until this point.”
In most cases, people “progress” from never having felt a pair of eyeglasses frames on their faces, to suddenly wearing prescription lenses in increasing strengths over short amounts of time. The degeneration is slowed down by a certain treatment (which is built around the needs and particular situation of each patient) that cannot cure, but rather holds off the negative effects for as long as possible. As their eyesight worsens, sufferers need increasing amounts of optical aids such as magnifying glasses, brighter lights and larger print. Often they will need all of the above plus their prescription eyeglasses. In the end, though, none will help and, as in the case of many grandmothers and grandfathers, the sufferer is left listening to audio tapes and twiddling their fingers for most of the day as they simply cannot see. Take note, however, that macular degeneration does not actually cause blindness. It causes the loss of clear sight. Total blindness only occurs if there are other complications and eye conditions involved.