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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Macular Degeneration

Whether you’re living with macular degeneration, or know someone who is, here is a guide to the basics of macular degeneration.

What are the different types of macular degeneration?

All macular degeneration is not the same, there is variation in the characteristics and treatment across all types. Some types of macular degeneration are rarer than others. The 3 types our site focuses on are:

  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Myopic macular degeneration
  • Stargardt disease

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of severe vision loss in individuals over 50 in the US.1 AMD is broken down into 3 stages, based on the size and amount of drusen found under the retina. The stages are of AMD are:

  1. Early
  2. Intermediate
  3. Advanced

The advanced stage can be broken down into two types: dry AMD (Geographic atrophy) or wet AMD (neovascular/exudative AMD).

Myopic macular degeneration (MMD)

Myopic macular degeneration (MMD) is also called pathological myopia or degenerative myopia. MMD is very similar to wet AMD in that it is closely associated with choroidal neovascularization or the abnormal growth of blood vessels under the retina. These blood vessels can leak and bleed causing vision loss. Wet MMD and wet AMD are treated the same.

Stargardt disease

Stargardt disease, also known as Stargardt macular dystrophy or juvenile macular degeneration, is an inherited disorder of the retina that causes progressive degeneration of the macula. It is a rare form of macular degeneration in which vision loss slowly occurs in childhood or adolescence.

What are the risk factors for macular degeneration?

A risk factor is any characteristic or exposure that might increase the chances of an individual developing a disease.

Age-related macular degeenration (AMD)

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the top 5 risk factors for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) include2:

  • Older age (over 55-60)
  • Family history of AMD
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

Other risk factors include gender, race, and iris color. Some genetic mutations and biomarkers might also be factors.

Myopic macular degeneration

Myopia is another word for nearsightedness and those who wear lenses of -6 diopters, a unit used to measure the power of the lens needed to fix vision, are at a higher risk of developing myopic macular degeneration. As myopia increases the risk of myopic macular degeneration increases, especially at -10 diopters or more.

Stargardt disease

Stargardt disease is an inherited retinal disorder that typically begins in childhood and early adolescence. The greatest risk factor for the disease is having an affected parent or having two parents carrying the mutated ABCA4 gene, the most common Stargardt mutation.

Can macular degeneration be cured?

No. As with any chronic, progressive health condition, there are treatments available that can help address or minimize symptoms, potentially slow progression, and help you lead a full life.

What lifestyle changes can I make to help slow progression?

While lifestyle changes aren’t a medical treatment for macular degeneration, these changes might help to slow the progression of macular degeneration. Changes that you can make to your lifestyle include:

  • A diet high in antioxidants
  • Smoking cessation
  • Weight control
  • Maintaining blood pressure
  • Wearing sunglasses/using sun protection
  • Using low vision devices

What are the AREDS/AREDS 2 nutritional supplements?

AREDS and AREDS 2 are nutritional supplements with vitamins and minerals that can be used to slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration. The formulations include:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Zinc oxide
  • Cupric oxide
  • Beta-carotin (AREDS only)
  • Lutein (AREDS 2 only)
  • Zeaxanthin (AREDS 2 only)

What are the eye injections for macular degeneration like?

Getting an injection anywhere can be nerve-wracking, especially an injection in the eye. But knowing what to expect can go a long way in making you feel a little more comfortable with the idea.

  1. First, your doctor will clean your eye and eyelid using a yellow iodine solution.
  2. Next, they will numb your eye with drops, a gel, or even a numbing shot.
  3. After your eyes are numbed, they will use an eyelid holder to keep your eyelids open during the injection.
  4. Then, the place of injection will be measured. The injection site is usually in the outer lower part of the eye, near your ear.
  5. Finally, you will be asked to look up, and the injection will take place. You should not feel significant pain, only slight pressure if anything at all
  6. Once the injection is done, your doctor will look at your eye and clean around it with an eyewash solution.

The whole process only takes a few minutes. You may see wavy lines and floaters as the medicine is distributed around your eye. After the injection, you may have some soreness and discomfort, and foggy vision or floaters for a day or two.

What if I have other conditions related to vision loss?

There are other eye conditions that can cause vision loss. Some of these conditions can co-occur with macular degeneration and others present with similar symptoms. You can find more information on the following conditions by clicking any of the links below:

Do you have a question that’s not here?

Don’t see something you’re looking for? Post your question in our Q&A section and we’d be happy to help!

  1. Age-Related Macular Degeneration. American Optometric Association website. 2018. https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/macular-degeneration.
  2. Top 5 Risk Factors for AMD. American Academy of Ophthalmology website. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/news/top-5-risk-factors-amd.

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