Like Looking Through A Foggy Window
Light enters the eye through the cornea and passes through the lens to send a clear picture to the brain. A cataract occurs when proteins inside that lens break down, causing the once-transparent tissue to become cloudy. The cloudy lens impedes light’s journey, resulting in blurry and dull vision. If untreated, cataracts can cause blindness as the lens opacifies completely.
Messing with the macula
Macular degeneration affects the back of the eye, also known as the retina. The condition specifically targets the macula, the part of the retina responsible for central vision. People with macular degeneration first experience blurriness when looking straight ahead which can lead to a blind spot over time. There are two types of macular degeneration, dry and wet.
Dry macular degeneration
Dry macular degeneration is the common form of the disease, accounting for roughly 90% of cases. In these cases, the macula thins and clumps of protein called drusen grow on the surface. The result is a very gradual loss of central vision.
Wet macular degeneration
In patients with wet macular degeneration, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina. These vessels tend to leak blood and other fluids, damaging the macula and causing retinal cells to stop working. The wet form of the disease typically results in faster vision loss than the dry kind.
Same causes, different disease
The principal cause of cataracts and macular degeneration is nothing more than age. Crucial ocular components can break down over time, allowing these diseases to occur. A family history of one of these ailments can also be a contributor, along with smoking, sun exposure, and diabetes.
The double whammy
Cataracts and macular degeneration are common conditions, with the likelihood of occurrence increasing with age. Although each disease takes place in very different sections of the eye, an individual can experience both ailments simultaneously. Each issue can compound the other, leading to severe problems with vision.
How bad can it get?
Macular degeneration does not affect the edges of sight but can cause a blind spot in central vision. Cataracts, on the other hand, have the ability to block all sight from an eye. The largest difference, however, is that cataracts can be removed through surgery. As long as no other disease is present, patients often return to clear vision after cataract removal. Macular degeneration is currently uncurable, and any damage caused is permanent.
Trick or treatment?
In patients dealing with both conditions in the same eye, an ophthalmologist will look at the best treatment options. Cataract surgery is a routine outpatient procedure that can restore all vision lost from the disease. There is no evidence that cataract surgery has any effect on macular degeneration, positive or negative.
Macular degeneration is not curable at this time. Eye-healthy foods containing vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and copper can slow deterioration. Individuals with wet macular degeneration can receive injections in the eye to block new blood vessels from forming.