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ESH #59 | What is the Cause of Macular Degeneration?


Age related macular degeneration or, as it is otherwise known, wet and dry macular degeneration is an eye condition that affects the cone cells of the central vision of one or both eyes. Macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of vision loss in the U.S. for people 60 years of age and older. The two types of age related macular degeneration are  “Wet Macular Degeneration” and “Dry Macular Degeneration”.

1. Wet Macular Degeneration

In this eye disease the blood vessels feeding the rods and cones leak, triggering “neovascularization,” which is a growth of new blood vessels. However, these new vessels are also leaky, drowning the photoreceptor cells. This leads to quick central vision loss.

2. Dry Macular Degeneration

The chemical process that allows us to see by turning light into electrical impulses is called phototransduction. This process creates debris called drusen. In a healthy eye, specialized cells in the blood called phagocytes consume this debris and carry it away through the blood vessels.

However, in dry macular degeneration this is no longer being accomplished. Debris builds up between the two most inner layers of the eye known as the retina and choroid creating damage to the photoreceptor cells located in the central vision.


What is the cause of macular degeneration?

Now that you see what “Age Related Macular Degeneration” is it is easier to understand why a common understanding of what causes the macula to degenerate is age. Despite a natural biological predisposition to acquiring this eye disease, we can maintain and even strengthen our maculas to slow down and even avoid the symptoms of macular degeneration.

Rather than thinking of age causing macular degeneration you could think of it as a length of time. We consider there to be three common main factors that “over time” causes both wet and dry macular degeneration.

These three causes are:

  1. Poor blood flow,
  2. Overusing central vision
  3. Misusing the macula

Macular Degeneration Cause 1 – Poor Blood Flow

It is the blood’s job to deliver nutrition, defense and oxygen to the cells of the eye to keep them healthy. In wet macular degeneration the blood vessels in the eye have become weak and are leaking. This shows that a correct amount of blood and nutrients are not being sufficiently delivered. In the case of Dry macular degeneration not enough phagocytes are being delivered to the eye to clear the debris (Drusen) away creating a detrimental effect on clear vision.

A secondary purpose of the blood is to take waste away from the eye. In the case of Dry macular degeneration this is clearing the drusen away from the Macula keeping it clear to function at its best and to stay strong and healthy.

Macular Degeneration Cause 2 – Overusing Central Vision

Just like any part of the body, if we misuse the macula over time it will fatigue and degenerate. Imagine hold a weight with your arm out straight for 14 hours a day for the next 6 months. It wouldn’t be long until the main muscles used in holding the weight fatigue. Surrounding muscles then have to start picking up the work from the fatigued muscles creating strain and a big challenge on the body to maintain overall strength.

The same can be said of overusing the macula when we spend all day and night reading smart phones, tablets, ebooks, books, newspapers, laptops, watching TV etc. This overuse causes fatigue in the visual system, making it hard to keep up with eye maintenance.

Macular Degeneration Cause 2 – Misused Macula

The Macula’s purpose in life is to see crisp clear details and colors. The macula need strong light to accomplish its purpose and the brighter the light the brighter the color and the sharper the image. Hiding from the sun and using poor indoor lighting dose not allow the macula to be fully activated on a regular basis. Just like anything else; if you “don’t use it, you loose it.” Overtime the macula degenerates as it is not being fully activated in the way it was designed.

The same can be said for looking at fine details, something that we stopped doing due to the changes in our modern lifestyles. Again, the less we activate the mechanism that is responsible for seeing detail, the macula, the more vulnerable it is to degeneration over time.

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  • Further causes of blurred vision can be eye infections, inflammation, or injury. Floaters are tiny particles drifting across the eye and although often brief and harmless, they may be a sign of retinal detachment. Retinal detachment with symptoms that include floaters, flashes of light across your visual field, or a sensation of a shade or curtain hanging on one side of your visual field could also cause blurred vision. Optic neuritis is inflammation of the optic nerve from infection or multiple sclerosis, so you may experience pain when moving your eye or touching it through the eyelid. `:;^

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    • Envision Admin

      A great addition to our article, thank you very much! 🙂

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