Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a chronic eye disease that is marked by the gradual deterioration of the center of the retina. There are two types of macular degeneration: dry macular degeneration, which is typically age-related, and wet macular degeneration, in which blood vessels grow under the retina in the back of the eye and leak blood and fluid.

Symptoms and Complications

The main symptoms of macular degeneration have to do with worsening vision. They include the following vision changes:

The need for brighter light when doing close work or reading

A blurred or blind spot in the center of your vision

Progressively worsening blurriness of printed words

Decreasing brightness or intensity of colors

Gradual increase of haziness in the your field of vision

Difficulty recognizing faces

Macular degeneration may affect both eyes, or only one. If it only affects one eye, you may not notice any symptoms at all because your good eye compensations for the weakening vision in the bad eye.

Dry macular degeneration may become wet macular degeneration with no warning, resulting in rapid vision loss. Dry macular degeneration can cause serious vision loss.

Risk Factors and Causes

Doctors are uncertain about the exact cause of macular degeneration, although they know that it is more common as the eye ages. It affects the area located at the center of your retina, called the macula, which is helps your eyes focus on things in your direct line of sight. As people age, those tissues thin and break down. Macular degeneration is often responsible for vision loss in older adults.

While macular degeneration is common among older adults, it doesn’t affect everyone. There are a number of factors that increase the risk of developing the condition. They include:

Age: The risk of developing macular degeneration increases as you age. It gets substantially higher after age 50 and is most common in those over 65.

Family history: A family history of macular degeneration increases the likelihood that you will also develop the condition

Race: Whites are at higher risk of macular degeneration than other races

Smoking: Cigarette smoking increases your risk of developing the condition

Unhealthy diet: Poor diet can contribute to the risk of macular degeneration.

Cardiovascular disease: Heart conditions or diseases that affect the blood vessels can increase the risk of macular degeneration, as can high cholesterol and obesity


While the damage caused by macular degeneration cannot currently be reversed, there are ways to slow the condition and preserve your sight as much as possible. Treatments focus on slowing the progress of the disease. The most common treatment for macular degeneration is vitamin supplementation and lifestyle changes. Surgery may be an option in people who have advanced macular degeneration in both eyes.

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