Both macular degeneration and keratoconus can lead to blindness in later life, but for vastly different reasons. At least 6.5 percent of adults over age 50 are living with macular degeneration, and there are two distinct types of this eye disorder. Meanwhile, the National Keratoconus Foundation reports that at least one person in every 2,000 in the US has keratoconus. Middle age is the stage in life when vision loss due to macular degeneration typically begins, and this can worsen the vision loss you experience due to having keratoconus.
Consulting with a professional at the Precision Keratoconus Center can help you to determine your best treatment options if you are concerned that you have macular degeneration in addition to keratoconus. The following describes some common macular degeneration symptoms and treatment options – as well as ways to preserve your vision in middle age if you have been diagnosed with keratoconus.
Recognizing Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
Living with keratoconus in young adulthood can make it difficult for you to recognize when your vision loss is due to a different underlying cause. The retina is affected in macular degeneration, and deposits (termed drusen) that form under the retina are the cause of the visual disturbances.
According to the BrightFocus Foundation, the size and number of the drusen generally impact the level of symptoms. One common early symptom is that normally straight lines begin to appear wavy. This can interfere with safely operating a motor vehicle and reading.
Three other macular degeneration symptoms are:
- Blurred vision;
- Difficulty distinguishing colors (which can also occur with cataracts);
- Loss of central vision – central scotoma (i.e., peripheral vision remains normal, but a blank or dark spot exists in central vision)
Dry and Wet Macular Degeneration Treatment Options
Since wet macular degeneration is the more severe form, it is crucial to receive early diagnosis and treatment for wet macular degeneration. Dry macular degeneration is also progressive, but the vision loss is typically slower than for the wet form. Yet, both types – without any treatment to stop progression – can lead to significant vision loss by 70 years of age.
The American Macular Degeneration Foundation notes that nutritional therapy is the standard for treating early dry macular degeneration. However, injections directly into the eye with anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) are the customary treatment for wet macular degeneration.
Coping with Progressive Vision Loss
Your awareness that progressive vision loss is occurring can enable you to make recommended adjustments in your home (such as removing small objects from the floor that are most likely to cause you to have a “slip and fall” accident). In contrast to the treatments available for macular degeneration, some treatment options for keratoconus may actually improve your vision (such as scleral contact lenses, cross-linking surgery, and corneal transplantation).
By age 65, people who have both keratoconus and macular degeneration often experience progressive vision loss that makes reading and driving a car more difficult. If dependent on driving an automobile to perform routine activities (e.g., grocery-shopping and visiting friends), an inability to renew a driver’s license due to poor vision can increase dependence on other people for transportation.
Therefore – if you are dually diagnosed with macular degeneration and keratoconus – it is imperative to receive treatment for both of these eye disorders to preserve your vision. Engaging in smoking cessation, wearing sunglasses in sunlight, and preventing the onset of Type 2 diabetes through appropriate weight management are also excellent strategies to prevent further damage to your eyes as you age (and subsequent vision loss).
Consider visiting one of the locations of the Precision Keratoconus Center to learn more about your treatment options if you are have keratoconus and macular degeneration.