Macular degeneration a growing concern for seniors

By Paul D. Bowker
Posted 7/22/21

More than 10 million Americans are affected by macular degeneration, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF). And with the baby-boomer generation growing older, officials …

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Macular degeneration a growing concern for seniors

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More than 10 million Americans are affected by macular degeneration, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF). And with the baby-boomer generation growing older, officials expect that number to grow.

Macular degeneration is an eye disease that attacks those over the age of 55 specifically.

That’s why doctors suggest frequent eye examinations for seniors.

Early detection can turn into early treatment, which is important for those diagnosed with macular degeneration because there is no cure. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in America, according to the AMDF.

A number of local options are available for those seeking examinations and treatments, including the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics (UIHC) in Iowa City, and Eye Associates, which has offices in Kalona and three other locations including Iowa City. Dr. Dennis J. Schrader, who received his Doctor of Optometry degree from Illinois College of Optometry, sees patients in Kalona and Iowa City.

UIHC has eye disease, retina and eye care clinics at the hospital campus in Iowa City, and also a clinic at Iowa River Landing in Coralville.

Macular degeneration is a progressive disease that affects central vision. A deterioration of the macula, a spot in the central portion of the retina which consists of millions of light-sensing cells, causes the disease and it is most common among seniors. According to the AMDF, the macula focuses central vision in the eye, and it “controls our ability to read, drive a car, recognize faces or colors, and see objects in fine detail.”

Between 85% and 90% of people with the disease suffer from “dry” macular degeneration (geographic atrophy); 10% to 15% have “wet” macular degeneration (exudative age-related). In the drying degeneration, vision loss is slow. The wet form of the disease can cause rapid vision loss.

The causes of macular degeneration are being researched, and specific factors are not currently known, according to the AMDF. Risk factors include smoking, genetics and even race (Caucasians are more likely to get the disease than African Americans or Latinos).

But even after a diagnosis of macular degeneration, there are things a patient can do to slow the progression of the disease: stop smoking, lose weight, exercise and protect your eyes from ultraviolet light. Wear sunglasses.

Wet degeneration can be treated by laser procedures or injections, according to Eye Associates.

The University of Iowa has used gene therapy to treat people in the early phases of the disease. A number of clinical trials are being conducted to treat both the dry and wet forms of macular degeneration.

On the Web:  www.macular.org  •  eyeassociatesic.com  •  uihc.org

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