Macular Degeneration is a painless medical condition affecting vision. As the macula, which is part of the retina, degenerates, vision deteriorates in the center of the visual field, often leading to legal blindness. It more frequently occurs in older individuals, though mild symptoms may be present even before the condition is severe enough to provoke a medical investigation. If detected early on, treatment and contingency measures slow the progression of this disease, thereby preventing rapid vision loss, which is severely incapacitating. Watch for the following signs of macular degeneration.
The earliest and most distinctive of all macular degeneration symptoms is the distortion of vision, with normal contours appearing unnatural. For instance, grids with straight lines begin to appear curvy, and window blinds, lined notebook pages and stacks of books appear to have uneven striations. This distortion of vision develops slowly in 90 percent of cases in the condition called dry macular degeneration. In 10 percent of cases, the distortion becomes noticeable suddenly, and vision deteriorates quickly, indicating a case of wet macular degeneration.
Those with macular degeneration also suffer from a blurring of vision, as if there is a glassy obstruction between one's eyes and the object they're focusing on. Activities such as reading, driving and watching television may become problematic. Many older patients assume that age-related vision loss is occurring, so they ignore such signs. But an eye examination may reveal the cause as macular degeneration, in which case speedy treatment should be started.
Patients with macular degeneration often complain of dark spots or empty patches in the central field of their vision. They may only see objects in the center of their field of vision partially, with small areas completely obliterated by the spots or empty patches. In some cases, shadow-like patches may obstruct vision. If unchecked, these highly discomforting blockages in vision become permanent.
As macular degeneration progresses, suffering individuals find it increasingly difficult to see in dim lighting. Their response to light as stimulus becomes weaker, and low lighting becomes less effective for them. If someone you know constantly asks for brighter lighting, especially during the daytime, take it as a warning sign.
Macular degeneration also impacts one's ability to perceive and differentiate between colors, especially when trying to distinguish one light color from the next and one dark shade from another. This occurs because the eye's ability to apprehend color brightness diminishes. Everything seems paler in appearance, thus making it difficult to distinguish between different lighter hues and varied darker shades.
Diminished contrast sensitivity compounds the difficulty in different discerning colors. Despite a plethora of contrasting colors in the environment, the eyes are unable to pick up on the differences in shade intensity. Those suffering from macular degeneration don't experience the colors around them vividly. Instead, everything has a dull appearance.
In more advanced stages of macular degeneration, problems with overall vision may develop in addition to the specific vision problems mentioned above. In trying to observe their surroundings, the affected individual's vision is often obstructed with a cloudy haze, as if they were looking at everything through foggy glass.
People with macular degeneration lose much of their visual acuity over time, especially if the condition remains untreated. This means that anything they see in their central vision area is perceived slowly, and fast movements are difficult to apprehend. In most cases, peripheral vision is not affected, and movement and objects on the edge of their field of vision are seen clearly.
People with macular degeneration have difficulty ascertaining the nuances of form and structure of the objects in their surroundings. It's difficult for them to recognize faces, read people's expressions, see finer details on objects, and so on. These deficits in vision are unlikely to be relieved with the use of eyeglasses or contact lenses. Like most other symptoms of macular degeneration, this symptom is also often passed off as a natural symptom of aging.
In most cases of macular degeneration, symptoms occur and develop gradually. But in some cases, a rapid onset of the symptoms listed occurs. When this happens, it's most likely that the patient is among the 10 percent who have wet macular degeneration, which takes a much more intense toll on vision and must be dealt with quickly.
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