What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration is a deterioration or breakdown of the small area in the retina at the back of the eye that allows you to see fine details (known as the macula) When the macula does not function properly, your central vision can be affected by bluriness, dark areas or distortion. Macular degeneration impairs your ability to see near and far and can make activities – like driving a car — difficult or impossible.

What Causes Macular Degeneration?

Many older people develop macular degeneration as part of the body’s natural aging process. There are different kinds of macular problems, but the most common is age-related macular degeneration (AMD) Exactly why it develops is not known, and no treatment has been uniformly effective.

The two most common types of AMD are “dry” (atrophic) and “wet” (exudative).

Most people have the “dry” form of AMD. It is caused by aging and thinning of the tissues of the macula. Vision loss is usually gradual.

The “wet” form of AMD accounts for about 10% of all cases. It results when abnormal blood vessels form underneath the retina at the back of the eye. These new blood vessels leak fluid or blood and blur central vision. Vision loss may be rapid and severe.

How is AMD diagnosed?

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Your optometrist or ophthalmologist can detect early stages of AMD during a comprehensive, dilated eye exam that may include:

  • A simple vision test called an Amsler grid
  • Viewing the macula with an ophthalmoscope
  • Taking special photographs of the eye called fluorescein angiography to find abnormal blood vessels under the retina

(Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology)