What Is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is damage or breakdown of the macula of the eye. The macula is a small area at the back of the eye that allows us to see fine details clearly. When the macula doesn't function correctly, we experience blurriness or darkness in the center of our vision. Macular degeneration affects both distance and close vision, 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 the clock but not be able to tell what time it is. Macular degeneration itself does not result in total blindness. People continue to have some useful vision and are able to take care of themselves.
What Causes Macular Degeneration?
Many older people develop macular degeneration as part of the body's natural aging process. The two most common types of age-related macular degeneration are "dry" (atrophic) and "wet" (exudative). Most people have "dry" macular degeneration. It is caused by aging and thinning of the tissues of the macula. Vision loss is usually gradual. "Wet" macular degeneration accounts for about 10% of all cases. It results when abnormal blood vessels form 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.
You should see an opththamoligst for annual dilated exams to screen for macular degeneration.