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Wet vs. Dry Macular Degeneration: What's the Difference?

Macular degeneration is a common eye condition that affects your center of vision. It makes it difficult to recognize faces, drive, or do work that requires detail. It usually affects people over the age of 60, making it one of the most prevalent causes of loss of eyesight in that demographic.

Like many eye conditions, macular degeneration usually develops gradually and only shows symptoms when it is advanced. The condition causes issues with the center of vision, the changes happening so slowly that you can miss them. 


What Is Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration is an eye ailment that affects the function of the macula. The macula is a small part of the retina that helps you attain central vision. The disease affects it by causing abnormal growth under it, leading to poor function and eventually to complete deterioration. 

Macular degeneration comes in two main forms, wet and dry. Wet or exudative macular degeneration is sometimes the final stage of dry or atrophic macular degeneration. However, this advancement from dry to wet is rare. 


  • Wet or Exudative Macular Degeneration

Wet macular degeneration is so named because of the nature of its development. The eye's structures work with blood vessels that help supply oxygen and nutrients. These spread out under the structure, including the retina and the macula. 

However, your eye develops abnormal blood vessels under the macula in wet macular degeneration. These begin to affect the function as they keep growing. After some time, they leak blood and fluids under the macula. As the fluid builds up, the macula's function fails, and then you start to see the symptoms of the condition.


  • Dry or Atrophic Macular Degeneration

Atrophic macular degeneration also takes its name from its mode of development. Unlike the exudative form, this one does not involve abnormal blood vessels; instead, abnormal growth in the macula leads to its deterioration. 

The leading cause of the atrophic form is the accumulation of deposits called drusen. These may be present in your eye and cause no issues. However, having them puts you at a higher risk of developing macular degeneration. When these drusen build up, they cause the macula to thin so much that it cannot provide a visual signal. 


What Is the Difference?



Exudative macular degeneration does not advance in stages as the atrophic form. It appears quickly and advances just as fast, requiring quick intervention to mitigate the damage. Atrophic macular degeneration, on the other hand, develops through three main stages:


  • Early stage

  • Intermediate stage

  • Advanced or late-stage



As mentioned earlier, these two forms differ in their development. Wet macular degeneration develops from abnormal blood vessels, while the atrophic form develops from drusen deposits. 



Dry macular degeneration is much more prevalent than the exudative form. Dry macular degeneration affects about 85 to 90 percent of all people with macular degeneration, while the wet form affects only 10 to 15 percent.

For more on wet and dry macular degeneration, visit Marshall EyeCare in Aberdeen, New Jersey. Call (732) 837-0988 to book an appointment today.

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