What is the Difference Between Wet and Dry Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration is a common cause of vision loss as people age. There are two main types of macular degeneration: dry and wet. Both can lead to blindness if left untreated, but they have important differences in terms of symptoms, detection, treatment options, and rates of progression.

Keep reading to learn the difference between wet and dry macular degeneration!

What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration is an eye condition that leads to loss of central vision, which is key for activities like reading and driving. It happens when the macula, the part of the retina that processes sharp images in your central vision, deteriorates over time.

Risk factors include aging, genetics, smoking, being overweight, eating a diet high in saturated fats, having high blood pressure, having high cholesterol, and being Caucasian. Symptoms of macular degeneration can often vary depending on the type of macular degeneration you have.

However, in general, those with macular degeneration may experience blurry and/or distorted central vision, and eventually blindness in their central vision.  There are treatments, but unfortunately, there isn’t a cure.  Treatment aims to slow progression, and regular eye exams help detect issues early.

Dry Macular Degeneration

The appearance of many yellow deposits known as drusen is a tell-tale sign of dry macular degeneration. Drusen contain lipids and waste products deposited from the cells of the retina.

As drusen multiply and grow in size within your retina, the macula can be affected. Drusen accumulate under the macula and cut off oxygen, which can cause your macula to thin out and stop working.

This is referred to as atrophy. The thinning of the macula leads to the gradual loss of central vision.

In the early stages of dry macular degeneration, you might not experience any symptoms. But as it progresses, the symptoms may include mild blurriness and difficulty seeing in low lighting.

Eating eye-healthy foods such as dark leafy greens, yellow fruits and vegetables, fish, and a balanced, nutrient rich diet have been shown to be beneficial to those with dry macular degeneration.  Your eye doctor may also recommend taking certain vitamins and minerals daily.  Injections are available to those with geographic atrophy to delay vision loss.

Dry macular degeneration is the most common type and isn’t as serious as the wet form. Around 80 to 90 percent of all patients with macular degeneration have the dry kind.  In some cases, the dry form can change to the wet form.

Wet Macular Degeneration

Approximately 10 percent of patients with macular degeneration have the wet form, which is the most severe. Wet macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula, a process called neovascularization.

These vessels are weak and can leak blood and fluid, distorting vision. Over time, the fragile blood vessels may also cause scarring.

Vision loss typically occurs faster in wet macular degeneration than in the dry form. Without prompt treatment, wet macular degeneration can lead to significant and irreversible vision loss.

Anti-VEGF injections help reduce the number of abnormal blood vessels in your retina and slows any leaking from blood vessels.  Laser surgery may also be used to treat some types of wet macular degeneration.

Treatment can slow or even stop further vision loss. However, it can’t restore vision already lost to wet macular degeneration.

The symptoms of wet macular degeneration may include:

  • Blurred central vision
  • Trouble recognizing faces
  • Difficulty adjusting to low-lighting
  • Dark or blank spots in your vision
  • Decreased central vision in one or both eyes
  • Visual distortions like straight lines appearing crooked or wavy (the Amsler grid test)
  • Need for brighter lighting when reading and performing other close-up tasks

Protect Your Sight from Macular Degeneration

You may not be able to notice the gradual changes occurring to your vision in the early stages of macular degeneration. So, getting frequent eye exams at VisionPoint Eye Center is vital to timely detection and treatment, which can preserve your remaining sight.

Are you experiencing vision changes? Schedule an appointment at VisionPoint Eye Center in Bloomington, IL, today!

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