by Mayo Clinic
Dry macular degeneration is a chronic eye disease that causes vision loss in the center of your field of vision. Dry macular degeneration is marked by deterioration of the macula, which is in the center of the retina — the layer of tissue on the inside back wall of your eyeball.
Dry macular degeneration is one of two types of age-related macular degeneration. The other type — wet macular degeneration — is characterized by swelling caused by leaky blood vessels in the back of the eye. Dry macular degeneration isn't associated with swelling and is the more-common form of the disease.
Dry macular degeneration doesn't cause total blindness, but it worsens your quality of life by blurring or causing a blind spot in your central vision. Clear central vision is necessary for reading, driving and recognizing faces.
The exact cause of dry macular degeneration is unknown, but the condition develops as the eye ages. Dry macular degeneration affects the macula — a small area at the center of your retina that is responsible for clear vision, particularly in your direct line of sight. Over time the cells that make up your macula break down.
Factors that may increase your risk of macular degeneration include:
Dry macular degeneration symptoms usually develop gradually. You may notice these vision changes:
Dry macular degeneration may affect one eye or both eyes. If only one eye is affected, you may not notice any or much change in your vision because your good eye compensates for the weak one.
When to see a doctor
See your eye doctor if:
These changes may be the first indication of macular degeneration, particularly if you are older than 50.
Diagnosing dry macular degeneration
Diagnostic tests for dry macular degeneration may include:
Determining the stage of your dry macular degeneration
Dry macular degeneration is categorized in three stages based on the progression of damage in your eye:
There's no treatment available to reverse dry macular degeneration. But this doesn't mean you'll eventually lose all of your sight. Dry macular degeneration usually progresses slowly, and many people with the condition are able to live relatively normal, productive lives, especially if only one eye is affected. Your doctor may recommend annual eye exams to see if your condition is progressing.
Increased vitamin intake
Taking a high-dose formulation of antioxidant vitamins and zinc may reduce the progression of dry macular degeneration to vision loss, according to research by the National Eye Institute (NEI). In its research, the NEI used a formulation that included:
Ask your doctor whether this formulation may help you reduce your risk of vision loss. Studies found this specific combination of vitamins can't cure severe vision loss, but it may reduce the risk of vision loss in people with intermediate macular degeneration. If you have advanced stage macular degeneration in one eye, this combination of vitamins may reduce the risk that you'll develop vision loss in your other eye. But for people with early-stage dry macular degeneration, there's no evidence that these vitamins provide a benefit.
Tell you doctor if you smoke, since beta carotene supplements have been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer in smokers. Your doctor may recommend an alternative formulation of vitamins for you.
Your doctor may also recommend lifestyle changes to incorporate more of the fruits and vegetables that contain these vitamins into your diet, along with other foods, such as fish, that contain nutrients believed to contribute to eye health. Some people may prefer to make lifestyle changes, rather than take supplements. Others may wish to combine supplements with lifestyle changes. Discuss your options with your doctor.
Surgery to implant a telescopic lens in one eye
For people with advanced macular degeneration in both eyes, one option to improve vision may be surgery to implant a telescopic lens in one eye. The telescopic lens, which looks like a tiny plastic tube, is equipped with lenses that magnify your field of vision. The telescopic lens implant may improve both distance and close-up vision.