Macular degeneration is a common cause of vision loss in people older than 50. It damages a small area of important nerve cells at the back of your eye.

1. It’s linked to both genetic and environmental factors.

The exact cause of macular degeneration is not known. For some people it may be a natural part of aging. For others it may be related to genes. You may be more at risk if you have a family history of macular degeneration. Other things that increase your chances of getting the condition are smoking or being overweight. Having high blood pressure or high cholesterol raises your risk, too. Managing these conditions is important for your overall health, including your vision.

2. Macular degeneration causes loss of central vision.

The main symptom of macular generation is not a complete loss of vision. Rather, you may notice blurred or blank spots in front of you. You may have trouble reading small print or need extra light to see clearly. You may notice colors seem less bright or straight lines look crooked or bent. See an eye doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

3. An eye doctor can diagnose it before you have symptoms.

An eye care specialist, an ophthalmologist, can diagnose macular degeneration by doing a complete eye exam. This includes putting drops in your eye to dilate, or open, your pupil. Then, the eye doctor can look into the back of your eye with a special type of magnifying lens. This exam can detect macular degeneration before you have symptoms. Other tests help pinpoint the type of macular degeneration you have and how far along it is.

4. There are different stages and types of macular degeneration.

Your eye doctor will describe macular degeneration as early, intermediate or late. Early stage usually has no symptoms. Intermediate stage may have a few symptoms. It can take 10 years for early stage to progress to late stage. Late macular degeneration can be wet or dry. The dry type causes gradual loss of central vision. The wet type is less common. It causes rapid loss of central vision.

5. There are prevention strategies.

You may be able to lower your risk of developing macular degeneration or slow its progression. Work with your doctor to get to a healthy weight. Control your blood pressure and cholesterol if they are high. Add lots of fish and leafy green vegetables to your diet. Ask your doctor if you should take supplements rich in antioxidants. They may slow down the progression of the disease. Also, don’t smoke. Smoking has negative effects throughout your body, including your eyes.

6. Early treatment may help save your vision.

There’s no cure for macular degeneration. Still, you may be able to save some of your vision. Lifestyle changes and diet supplements are the only treatments for early, intermediate and dry macular degeneration. Wet macular degeneration may be treated by painlessly injecting medication into your eye. Laser surgery is another option for the wet type. These treatments may prevent further vision changes.

7. Several tools make low vision easier to manage.

Macular degeneration does not cause blindness. Rather, it may lead to low vision. That’s vision loss that cannot be corrected with regular glasses or surgery. This can make everyday tasks difficult to do. Vision rehabilitation can help. It could include working with a team of vision experts and using low-vision aids. Magnifying devices, audio books, talking clocks, and special lighting are examples.

8. Know how to cope with macular degeneration.

Any vision loss is scary. But, you can help yourself by making some healthy lifestyle changes and working closely with all members of your vision team. Also, learn as much as you can about the disease.

Medical reference: Medical News Today