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Explore how researchers have linked calcium deposits in the eye to a possible cause of age-related macular degeneration.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is an incurable disease of eyes and it is the main cause of blindness in those aged 55 and older in America. The disease affects more than ten million people in the nation and it’s caused by a deterioration of the central part of the retina. A person with the disease will have difficulty reading, driving, recognizing faces or colors and seeing the fine details of an object.

Dry Macular Degeneration: What Is It?

AMD is a chronic eye disease and it causes vision loss. It is highlighted by a deterioration of the macula, or the center of the retina. There are two types of macular degeneration, dry and wet, with dry being the most common. With wet macular degeneration, blood vessels will grow at the back of the eye and leak blood and fluid. With this disease, the degeneration may worsen the quality of a person’s life by causing blurry vision, or a blind spot in the center of the vision pathway. A person requires central vision to do many things like drive, read and recognize faces.

Dry macular degeneration can develop into wet macular degeneration at any time and it may result in complete blindness.

Symptoms

Dry macular degeneration usually has symptoms that develop gradually. A person may notice any or all of the following changes:

  • Needing brighter light when you read or are doing close up work
  • Experiencing an increased difficulty adapting to low lighting levels, such as when in a dimly lit room
  • Having a hard time with blurriness of printed words
  • A decrease in the intensity of bright colors
  • Difficulty recognizing faces
  • A gradual increase in the haziness of your central vision or overall vision
  • Crooked or distorted central vision
  • A blurry or blind spot in the middle of one’s vision field
  • Hallucinations of geometrical shapes or people, in situations involving advanced macular degeneration
This disease can affect one or both eyes and if only one is affected, a person may not really notice any changes in their vision because the good eye can compensate for the weaker one.

Causes

The precise cause of macular degeneration is currently unknown, but it does happen as the eyes grow older. The disease runs in families and there may be a great array of proteins and genes that are associated with wet and dry macular degeneration. In studies performed on twins, it was shown that genetic factors played a significant role in the cause. Other things which could cause the condition include having a light pigmentation, iris color, sunlight exposure, medications and having a high degree of myopia.

See Also: Eye Pressure Implications

Risk Factors Associated With Macular Degeneration

There are certain factors that can increase a person’s risks of developing macular degeneration and these include:

  • Age: The risk of macular degeneration increases as a person grows older, particularly after someone turns 50 years old. The disease is most common in those older than 65 years of age.
  • Family history: Having a family history of this disease means a person is more likely to develop it.
  • Race: People of the Caucasian race are more commonly affected by macular degeneration than those of other races.
  • Smoking: Those who smoke cigarettes have an increased risk of developing the disease.
  • Obesity: Being morbidly obese increases the chances that early stage or intermediate macular degeneration will progress to the severest type of the disease.
  • Unhealthy diet: People who consume a poor diet that is limited in fruits and vegetables may have an increased risk of this disease.
  • Cardiovascular disease: If a person has or has had diseases that affected the heart and blood vessels, it can put them at a higher risk of the disease.
  • High cholesterol: Having elevated cholesterol puts a person at a higher risk of developing macular degeneration.
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