Macular Degeneration

What is macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration is a gradual breakdown of the part of the eye called the macula. The macula is the central part of the retina. The retina is the light sensitive lining in the back of your eye. It works somewhat like the film in a camera. Light images are carried by nerves from the retina to your brain.

The macula is the part of the retina that normally allows you to see fine detail. Macular degeneration can make it harder for you to see fine detail in the center of your field of vision.

Macular degeneration usually affects both eyes, though it may affect one eye earlier than the other. It occurs in many people as they get older. In fact, macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people over age 50 in the United States.

How does it occur?

There is a gradual, painless breakdown in the tissues behind the retina, which allows abnormal blood vessels to grow under the retina. If fluid leaks from these blood vessels, retinal cells can be damaged and scar tissue may develop. This scar tissue causes a blind spot to form in the central vision.

What are the symptoms?

Macular degeneration does not cause any pain. The first signs of the condition are usually problems with your vision. The symptoms may include:

  • Blurred Vision
  • Distortion of vertical straight lines (for example, a telephone pole may appear to have a wiggle)
  • A dark patch in the middle of words as you read
  • A worsening of your color vision, your side vision is usually not affected.
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How is it diagnosed?

A careful and thorough examination by an eye specialist is necessary for diagnosis. Sometimes addition testing modalities may be required.

How is it treated?

The type of macular degeneration determines the appropriate treatment. For dry macular degeneration, which is the most common form, a specific combination of dietary supplement may retard progression. At this time there is no specific treatment for dry macular degeneration. For wet macular degeneration, which is less common and usually more aggressive, treatment involves intraocular injections. These treatments are very effective in stabilizing and even improving vision. They are administered by a retinal specialist.

How can I take care of myself?

  • Tell your doctor if your vision changes in any way.
  • Never ignore blurred vision, line distortion, blind spots, or loss of color vision.
  • Protect your eyes from ultraviolet (UV) light with UV coating on your glasses.
  • Have a complete eye exam every 2 or 3 years. If you have diabetes or a family history of eye disease, have your eyes checked at least once a year.