Vision loss is common amongst elderly people. Macular degeneration ranks third as a cause of blindness after cataract and glaucoma. The main risk factor associated with macular degeneration is aging. It is estimated that almost 200 million people in the world have macular degeneration. If macular degeneration was a country, it would be the eighth most populated county in the world.
Although there is no cure for macular degeneration, researchers have found the culprit that causes macular degeneration and a new way to inhibit the vision loss very early. This article is dedicated to information regarding macular degeneration. Buy eye care products with 15% cashback from Pulse Plus Pharmacy.
What is macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration is a painless condition, where the central portion of the retina called the "macula" deteriorates causing vision loss. This macula is responsible for the focus of central vision in the eye, which enables us to read, drive, and recognize objects & colors.
Human eye working mechanism and macular degeneration
Human eye replicates a camera. The macula is compared to as the film. This macula collects the images at the center of the field of vision and sends them through the optic nerve to the brain which illuminates as sight. When the cells of the macula deteriorate, images cannot be captured properly. At initial stages, macular degeneration does not affect the vision. As the condition progress, the vision is blurred or wavy. Finally, if the macula is completely damaged, vision is totally lost.
Types of macular degeneration
There are two types of macular degeneration namely "dry" and "wet". The most common type of macular degeneration is the dry(atrophic) type which accounts for about 85 to 90 percent of cases. Wet (neovascular or exudative) macular degeneration accounts for about 10 percent of the cases. All wet macular degeneration is considered to be advanced and legally blind.
Causes of macular degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration can cause blindness among the elderly people. The exact reason for macular degeneration is not known and researchers are working on it. At this juncture, age-related macular degeneration causes include heredity and environment. However, there are some risk factors associated with the development of age-related macular degeneration. Let's have a look int the risk factors below.
Risk factors for age-related macular degeneration
The biggest risk factor for macular degeneration is age. As your age increase, the risk of this disease also increases. This disease affects elderly people of age 55 and above. Some researchers have pointed few other risk factors that contribute to macular degeneration. The risk factors are discussed below:
Lack of physical activity and obesity
Ophthalmology studies reported that obese patients with macular degeneration have increased risk of developing advanced macular degeneration when compared with normal weight peoples. The same study also reported that physical activity can inhibit the development of advanced macular degeneration.
Heredity is one of the factors that develop age-related macular degeneration. Studies have also found that specific contributing genes are present in the people with macular degeneration.
Hypertension(High blood pressure)
Investigative Ophthalmology and Vision Science reported that high blood pressure can be associated with the development of macular degeneration.
Smoking is the major risk factor for age-related macular degeneration. Findings also show that person living with a smoker has double risk of macular degeneration.
Lighter eye color
Macular degeneration more often occurs among the Caucasian race with lighter skin and eye color. Some researchers found that the extra pigment in the darker eyes acts as a protecting factor for the development of eye diseases during sun exposure. This theory is not concluded and there are many contradictions.
The risk factor found to have many contradictions depending on the various study. Ageing and smoking is the only risk factor found in major studies associated with the eye disease.
Signs and symptoms of macular degeneration
Neither dry macular degeneration nor wet macular degeneration causes eye pain. The early symptom of dry macular degeneration is blurred vision. As the light-sensing cells in the macula are lesser, people will see images less clearly. If the cells of the macula have more damage, people will see a black or grey spot in the middle of their field of vision. The symptoms of dry macular degeneration develop slowly and do not cause total blindness.
Other symptoms may include decreased night vision and haziness of vision. All these symptoms affect the quality of life and people find difficult to read, drive and facial recognition.
The symptoms of wet macular degeneration are straight lines appearing crooked or wavy and the central vision may decrease over a short period of time. The ophthalmologist may find decreased vision quality and changes in the central retina with the ophthalmoscope in both dry and wet macular degeneration.
New finding in the treatment of macular degeneration
Ophthalmology has found that the culprit behind the macular degeneration is an enzyme called cGAS. This enzyme plays a vital role in detecting foreign DNA by helping the immune system to fight infections. Unexpectedly in macular degeneration, this cGas is activated causing the killing of cells in the retina thereby leading to vision loss.
cGAS may be an alarm not just for pathogens but for other harmful conditions that sanction responses from the immune system. The target being an enzyme, researchers could develop a molecule that could inhibit it. There are several medicines on the market that target specific enzymes, such as the statins which are used to lower cholesterol levels.As many clinical trials have been failed, these new findings give a clue for the researchers to develop the new treatment for dry macular degeneration.
The University of Virgina researchers expect that the development of the drug which blocks this cGAS enzyme will take several years. AS the drugs would go through clinical trials to determine effectiveness and safety.
The final word
Researchers also hope to develop a new way to find the level of cGAS enzyme in the eyes of the affected patients. Medical science has improved a lot so decidedly we can say that scientists will find a new drug for macular degeneration.