A Clearer View

Latest treatment options and news about cataracts, dry eye syndrome and other eye care topics.

Cataracts vs Macular Degeneration: Understanding the Difference

by Damion Wasylow 2 April 2018 13:36 PM

retired couple smiling closely
Many people are understandably confused about the difference between cataracts and macular degeneration. After all, you rarely need to know which is which until you or a loved one has to deal with one or both of these conditions. And, yes, you could experience both at the same time. 

To bring a little clarity to the subject, let’s compare the two eye diseases in three critical areas…

What are the Causes?

Cataracts: Proteins that make up the eye’s lens clump together, creating a cloudy area in the visual plane. Cataracts generally develop as a person ages and progressively get worse, although they can also occur in children and young adults, often as a result of genetic factors. Smoking, diabetes, traumatic injury, medications, UV exposure and alcohol can all be contributing factors. The number one cause, however, is simply aging.

Macular Degeneration: Aging is also the chief culprit when it comes to Macular Degeneration. In fact, in these instances, it’s known as Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD). With ARMD, the macula – the part of the retina responsible for central vision and fine details – begins to breakdown. The American Macular Degeneration Foundation lists smoking, being overweight and having high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease as contributing factors.

What are the Symptoms? 

Cataracts: Cloudy or blurred vision, double vision, light sensitivity, glare and halos and lens discoloration are all symptoms that could indicate cataracts. Cataract symptoms usually come on slowly. Often, patients simply attribute the gradual loss of vision to their eyes “getting old.” Diagnosis and treatment of cataracts can provide a path to improved vision for the rest of the patient’s life. 

Macular Degeneration: Like cataracts, ARMD symptoms often progress slowly. Vision blurs over time, particularly when trying to focus on objects close up. The biggest difference compared to cataract symptoms is likely the presence of dark areas in the center of the patient’s vision. They may also experience whited-out areas in their vision.

How is it Treated? 

Cataracts: Surgery is the only effective treatment option for cataracts. For vision to improve, the affected lens must be surgically removed and replaced with an intraocular lens implant. Today’s laser-assisted cataract surgery procedures allow most patients to see better before they even leave the recovery room. They often experience no pain and recover completely in hours or a few days. 

Macular Degeneration: Little can be done to improve the eyesight of a patient with Age-Related Macular Degeneration, but the speed of vision decline can be slowed with early detection and treatment. Understanding the disease, watching for symptoms and visiting your eye doctor for regular exams can help extend your vision quality. 

Cataracts and macular degeneration pose unique challenges for patients and their eye doctors. If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of either condition, please see you eye doctor as soon as possible. Early detection and diagnosis go a long way to improving your quality of life. 

Contact North Florida Cataract Specialist and Vision Care today by calling 352-373-4300 or contact us online. We will gladly answer all of your questions and work to find a treatment plan that matches your needs.



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