Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is the deterioration/breakdown of the macula. The macula is a small area in the retina at the back of the eye that allows you to see fine details clearly and perform activities such as reading and driving. When the macula does not function correctly, your central vision can be affected by blurriness, dark areas or distortion.

Macular degeneration affects your ability to see near and far, and can make some activities like threading a needle or reading difficult or impossible.

Although macular degeneration reduces vision in the central part of the retina. It does not affect the eye's side or peripheral vision. For example, you could see the outline of a clock but not be able to tell what time it is.

Macular degeneration alone does not result in total blindness. Even in more advanced cases, people continue to have some useful vision and are often able to take care of themselves. In many cases, macular degeneration's impact on your vision can be minimal.

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 most common is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Exactly why it develops is not known, and no treatment has been uniformly effective. 

Types of AMD

The two most common types of AMD are the "dry" (atrophic) and the "wet" (exudative). Most people have the atrophic form of AMD. It is caused by aging and thinning of the tissues of the macula. Vision loss is usually gradual.

The exudative or "wet" form of macular degeneration accounts for about 10% of all AMD 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.

Symptoms of macular degeneration?

  • Blurred vision
  • A dark or empty area appears in the center of vision
  • Straight lines look distorted; they appear wavy

Diagnosis of Macular degeneration

  • Vision test in which you look at a chart that resembles graph paper (Amsler grid)
  • Viewing the macula with an ophthalmoscope
  • Taking special photographs of the eye called fluorescein angiographs to find abnormal blood vessels under the retina.

How is Macular Degeneration treated?

Though, there is currently no cure for macular degeneration, there are treatments that can help reduce vision loss:

  • Vitamins: A large scientific study showed that people at risk for developing advanced stages of MAD lowered their risk by about 25% when treated with a high dose combination of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta carotene and zinc.
  • Laser Surgery: Certain types of "wet" macular degeneration can be treated with laser surgery, a brief outpatient procedure. High-energy laser light can sometimes be used to destroy actively growing abnormal blood vessels that occur in age-related macular degeneration.
  • Photodynamic therapy: A focused beam of light is used to slow or stop leaking blood vessels that damage the macula.  It is a two-step treatment in which a light-sensitive drug is used to damage the abnormal blood vessels. A medication is injected into the bloodstream to be absorbed by the abnormal blood vessels in the eye. The doctor then shines a cold laser into the eye to activate the drug, damaging the abnormal blood vessels.