What is age-related macular degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration is a disease that causes blurring of
. The blurring happens because of damage
to the macula, a small area at the back of the
. The macula helps you see the fine detail in
things that your eyes are focusing on.
Macular degeneration makes
it harder to do things that require sharp central vision, like reading,
driving, and recognizing faces. It does not affect side vision, so it does not
lead to complete blindness.
There are two types of macular
degeneration—wet and dry. The dry form is by far the most common type. The wet
form is much less common, but it happens more quickly and is more
You may have either type in just one eye, but over time
you may get it in the other eye too.
What causes macular degeneration?
degeneration is the result of damage to the nerve cells in the
macula. The process that leads to this damage is
different for each type.
- The dry form is a gradual process. As you
age, the cells in the macula start to thin and break down, and waste deposits
build up in the back of the eye. Over time, this damages the macula.
- The wet form happens when abnormal blood vessels grow in the back
of the eye. These blood vessels break easily and leak blood and fluid under the
macula. This can quickly damage the macula and distort your central vision.
Experts are still studying the causes of both forms.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom of macular
degeneration is dim or fuzzy central vision. Objects may look warped or smaller
than they really are. You may have a blank or blind spot in the center of your
field of vision. As the disease gets worse, you may have trouble with tasks
like reading and driving.
If you have the dry form, your vision will
probably become blurry slowly. You may have it for several years before it
affects your ability to read, drive, and do everyday activities.
Often the first symptom of the wet form is that straight
lines look wavy or curved. In the wet form, vision loss happens quickly and can be severe.
How is macular degeneration diagnosed?
can usually detect macular degeneration by doing a regular eye exam and asking
questions about your past health. You may have some vision tests, including an
ophthalmoscopy. This test lets your doctor look at the inside of your eye and check for possible signs of this disease, such as . These are yellowish white waste deposits that
can build up at the back of the eye.