Macular degeneration is a vision change that can gradually create blur over time.
Macular degeneration affects the macula, the small central area of the retina that maintains our sharpest vision. The health of the macula determines our ability to read, recognize faces, drive, watch television, use a digital device, and perform any other detailed visual task.
Because the disease happens as you get older, it’s often called age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It usually doesn’t cause blindness but might cause severe vision problems.
Symptoms of macular degeneration
Early signs of vision loss from AMD include shadowy areas in your central vision or unusually fuzzy or distorted vision. Some patients may notice wavy or distorted words when reading.
Additional symptoms include difficulty seeing details in poor lighting conditions and glare sensitivity.
Many patients do not notice the symptoms of AMD if they are present in only one eye or more pronounced in one eye than the other. When viewing with both eyes simultaneously the symptoms of blur and distortion may not be noticed.
Types of macular degeneration
There are two types of macular degeneration: Dry AMD and Wet AMD
Dry AMD is the most common form:
Dry AMD is due to an accumulation of proteins in the macula that causes the retinal cells above them to lose function. These protein deposits are called drusen. Most patients with dry AMD notice a gradual, painless loss of vision that progresses with time.
Wet AMD is a more visually threatening condition and accounts for 10-20% of AMD cases.
Wet AMD is caused by leaky blood vessels in the retina. These abnormal blood vessels may leak fluids or blood into the back of the eye.
Patients with wet AMD typically experience more significant vision loss than those with dry AMD. The vision loss caused by wet AMD is often noticed by the patient once the condition is very serious.
Causes of macular degeneration
Though macular degeneration is associated with aging, research suggests there also may be a genetic component to the disease.