Answers provided by Dr. Mitchell Gossman, M.D., ophthalmologist at Eye Associates of Central Minnesota, St. Cloud

What is macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration refers to a number of diseases which affect the center of the retina, called the “macula.” The macula allows for the finest detailed vision that enables us to do things, such as read. Unfortunately, the rest of the retina that serves your peripheral vision does not have such detailed vision – just try to read a book while looking away from it to verify this.

What are the “eye shots” that are used to treat macular degeneration?

There are two forms of macular degeneration: “wet” and “dry.” Dry macular degeneration is a degenerative process in the macula that causes damage to your ability to see fine detail but without damage due to fluid or blood. Wet macular degeneration however is treatable. It is called “wet” because of the development of abnormal blood vessels beneath the retina that leak or bleed and interfere with retinal function.

We now have medications that can be injected into the eye (painlessly) to destroy these blood vessels. Generally speaking this does not cure the condition and requires periodic treatment.

The macula is the area in the center of the retina. That area can be affected by disease that will lead to macular degeneration. Contributed photo

Does macular degeneration cause blindness?

Since macular degeneration affects only the central 10 percent of your overall vision, even complete damage to this area does not cause complete loss of all vision. Loss of other areas of the retina from other diseases, such as glaucoma, can become a much more serious problem with threatened blindness that can severely impact the ability to function with activities of daily living. Patients with macular degeneration are seldom unable to care for themselves. It is true, however, that advanced macular degeneration can severely impact the ability to perform important tasks such as reading, driving and working.

What is “legal blindness?”

Macular degeneration can cause loss of visual acuity (the common test showing the smallest letters you can read on the chart). If this visual acuity declines to  20/200 or less in both eyes then you may be diagnosed as having “legal blindness,” a legal definition used for tax benefits and driving privileges, but by no means would you be blind.

Is there anything I can do to prevent macular degeneration?

Yes. The most important thing you can do is not smoke because it has been shown that smoking increases your risk. It may also be beneficial to wear UV protection. Macular degeneration is associated with a family history of the disease and advancing age, obviously two things we can do nothing about! You should also have periodic eye exams as recommended by your doctor in order to detect it in its earlier stages and to identify the treatable wet macular degeneration as early as possible to minimize permanent damage. Of course, if you already have blurry vision or distorted vision you should schedule an appointment to determine the cause. If at that eye examination you are found to have macular degeneration, it may be recommended to take a combination of vitamins and minerals that has been show to prevent or slow progression of the disease.

Can these eye vitamins be taken to prevent macular degeneration?

Patients with no macular degeneration or only mild disease were shown to not benefit from treatment with vitamins

Find Out More

Dr. Mitchell Gossman and Dr. Andrea Joplin, ophthalmologists at Eye Associates of Central Minnesota, can diagnose and treat macular degeneration. The office is located at 628 Roosevelt Road, Suite 101, in St. Cloud. To make an appointment or to learn more, call 320-774-3789 or email info@eaofcm.com.