Macular Holes: Learn the Risk Factors, Early Symptoms, and Treatment
Macular holes are relatively rare, and only about 8 out of every 100,000 people will develop one in their lifetime. However, everyone needs to learn about them because they can lead to loss of vision if left untreated, and treatment is relatively quick and easy. In addition, the earlier macular holes are treated, the greater the chance of vision recovery in the affected eye.
Read on to learn more about macular holes, their risk factors, signs, and treatment options.
Macular Holes: What They Are
The macula is located in the center of your retina. The retina of your eye serves a very important role in your vision. It is located near the back of your eye and sends important signals to your brain through your optic nerve. Your brain then interprets the signals it sends to produce a clear image of what you are viewing.
If a hole develops in your macula, it can lead to problems with your central vision. Central vision is what you are focusing on when looking straight ahead, unlike peripheral vision, which consists of objects you are not focusing on at the time.
Macular holes can develop as a complication of diabetic eye disease, after a retina detaches, or after an eye injury occurs. However, they often occur due to vitreous shrinkage that often occurs during the aging process. Your eye’s vitreous is attached to its retina, and as it shrinks, it can pull on the retina and tear a piece of the macula off as it pulls on it, creating a macular hole.
Macular Hole Risk Factors
Most people who develop macular holes are over the age of 65, and more women develop macular holes than men.
Other than old age and female gender (over 70 percent of people who develop macular holes are women), there are several additional macular hole risk factors, including:
- A history of eye inflammation.
- Diabetes, especially if it is uncontrolled or you suffer from diabetic eye disease.
- A history of retinal detachment.
However, realize that many macular holes often occur spontaneously in people who have no history of eye disease or past trauma.
Macular Hole Symptoms
Macular holes typically go through three stages of development, and as they progress through the stages, symptoms become more severe. The general symptoms of macular holes include blurry central vision and a wavy appearance in straight lines you may be looking directly at. You may also notice gray or black spots in your central vision.
Signs that your vision problem may be caused by a macular hole and not another eye disorder include problems with central vision accompanied by clear peripheral vision and vision disturbance in only one eye. Most people develop macular holes in only one eye at a time. However, once you develop one macular hole, there is a small chance you will later develop one in the other eye.
Macular Hole Treatments
If you suspect you may have a macular hole, it is important to get it diagnosed and treated promptly. Macular holes treated within six months of development typically respond much better to treatment than those that have been present longer.
Most macular holes are treated with a surgery called a vitrectomy. This is a short, outpatient procedure that can take as little as one hour. After administering a local anesthetic, your ophthalmologist will remove the vitreous gel from your eye and replace it with a special gas. The gas stimulates your macula to heal itself, and your eye gradually replaces it with a new fluid.
To aid in the macula healing process, you must lie in bed face down as much as possible until your macula has healed or for at least seven to 10 days after treatment. While this may sound like an inconvenience, it will help ensure your surgery is as successful as possible so you can get your good vision back.
While relatively uncommon, macular holes can lead to complete central vision loss when left untreated. Reach out to Cape Fear Retina for prompt macular hole diagnosis and treatment if you notice any of the signs or symptoms.