What is macular degeneration?
Sometimes the delicate cells of the macula become damaged and
stop working. We do not
know why this is, although it tends to
happen as people get older. This is called age-related
Because macular degeneration is an age-related process it
usually involves both eyes, although
they may not be affected at
the same time. With many people the visual cells simply cease to
function, like the colors fading in an old photograph - this is
known as ‘dry’ degeneration.
Sometimes there is scarring of the
macula caused by the leaking blood vessels and this is called
Children and young people can also suffer from an inherited form
of macular degeneration called
macular dystrophy, Sometimes
several members of a family will suffer from this, and if this is the
case in your family, it is very important that eyes are checked
Macular degeneration is not painful and never leads to total
blindness. It is the most common cause
of poor eyesight in people
over 60, but never leads to complete sight loss because it is only
central vision that is affected. Macular degeneration never affects vision at the outer edges of the
eye. This means that
almost everyone with macular degeneration will have enough side
vision to get
around and keep his or her independence.
What are the symptoms?
In the early stages central vision may be blurred or distorted, with
things looking an unusual size or
shape. This may happen quickly
or develop over several months. You may be very sensitive to
or actually see lights that are not there. This may cause some discomfort occasionally, but otherwise
degeneration is not painful.
The macula enables people to see fine details and those with the
advanced condition will often
notice a blank patch or dark spot in
the center of their sight. This makes activities like reading,
and recognizing small objects or faces very difficult.
What should I do if I think that I have macular degeneration?
If you suspect that you may have macular degeneration but there
are no acute symptoms you should
see your optometrist of your
doctor who will refer you to an eye specialist. If you have acute
symptoms then you should consult your doctor or local casualty
This factsheet is designed to give you a very brief introduction to
the subject of macular degeneration.
- Information provided by the American Optometric Association
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