Hocus Pocus, My Macula Can't Focus
Hi, when we left, our hero (yes, that would be me) had just realized she had “lost” her left eye’s central vision to age-related macular degeneration. I had been given a diagnosis...and I had no idea what the hey he was talking about.
Diagnosed but not informed
Now, I love doctors as people but I don’t always like doctors as doctors. Do you find them to be a little light in the information department? Yep, me too. Not quite sure where it comes from, but doctors seem to treat me like a mushroom. You know: keep her in the dark and feed her bull poopy. (G-rated; yes?)
I assume you, like I, have an intelligence quotient higher than a mushroom. I assume you, like I, do not appreciate not getting information when given a life-altering diagnosis. I also assume that you, like I, started to search. That IS why you are reading this, right? Thought so!
And that is why I am going to start to tell you what is going on. I am not a doctor. I have never played one on tv. HU will probably vet what I say by a real doctor (and I will be in big trouble for saying they treat me like a mushroom…"Did not!” “Did too! Mom!”). That means, though, that what I say will be accurate. Except I am going to make it real simple, ‘k? Let’s go!
The “film” in your eye is the retina. It captures light, performs some biochemical hocus pocus and sends that light to the brain as electrical energy. That is how you see. In the simplest terms, your retina has two parts: the peripheral retina and the macula.
The peripheral retina is all around the edges. It has the important job of making sure you know what is going on around you. It picks up the “background” in your picture. Your peripheral vision is good with forms and movement. It is also good at picking up faint lights in the distance. It is not so great with color discrimination and details.
The macula is the central part of the eye. It is very good at fine discrimination and color vision. The macula is the part of the retina we use when we try to focus on something. Thread a needle, read, anything that requires fine discrimination is done with your macula. It is the macula that starts to disappear in age-related macular degeneration.
Why does that happen? Later I might be able to give you some more causative factors (provided HU actually keeps me!), For now, suffice it to say the servants get tired and die. Huh? Alright. Remember those old movies when the potentate sat on the throne and all his servants swarmed around with fruit and wine? The potentate is your photoreceptors. They do the job of converting light into chemical and electric energy. That is absolutely ALL they are capable of doing. Photoreceptors have no self-care skills. None. They are total care clients.
Retinal pigment epithelial cells (RPE)
The servant cells are retinal pigment epithelial cells or RPEs. RPEs feed the photoreceptors. They clean up after the photoreceptors. (Photoreceptors cannot take themselves potty). If it is a job other than converting light to sight, the RPEs do it for the photoreceptors. And what happens to the potentate when the servants sicken and die? Same thing that happens to the photoreceptors when the RPEs sicken and die. The photoreceptors die as well.
This at the most basic level is macular degeneration. There is more, but I am keeping these short. Back later!
How do you protect your eyes from the sun?