Macular Degeneration


Macular degeneration is a deterioration or breakdown of the small area in the retina at the back of the eye (the macula) that allows you to see fine details. 

When the macula does not function properly, your central vision can be affected by blurriness, dark areas or distortion. Macular degeneration impairs your ability to see near and far and can make activities like driving a car difficult or impossible.

Many older people develop macular degeneration as part of the body’s natural aging process. There are different kinds of macular problems, but the most common is age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

What causes macular degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration is most common in adults over the age of 60. Other than age, you may be at high risk of developing this eye condition due to 

  • Family history
  • Tobacco Use
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Eating lots of saturated fats
  • Being light-skinned
  • Being female
  • Having a light eye color

Are there different types of age-related macular degeneration?

The two most common types of AMD are “dry” (atrophic) and “wet” (exudative).

  • Dry Form. Most people have the “dry” form of AMD. It is caused by aging and thinning of the tissues of the macula. Vision loss is usually gradual.
  • Wet Form. The “wet” form of AMD accounts for about 10% of all 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.

What are the symptoms of age-related macular degeneration?

In the early stages, you might not have any noticeable signs of macular degeneration. Consequently,  it might not be diagnosed until it gets worse or affects both eyes.

Symptoms of macular degeneration may include:

  • Worse or less clear vision; vision is blurry making it hard to read fine print or drive.
  • Dark, blurry areas in the center of your vision
  • Worse or different color perception, although rare

How is age-related macular degeneration diagnosed?

Your optometrist or ophthalmologist can detect early stages of age-related macular degeneration during a comprehensive, dilated eye exam that may include:

  • A simple vision test called an Amsler grid, showing a pattern of straight lines that resembles a checkerboard. With macular degeneration, some of the straight lines may appear wavy to you or some of the lines are missing.
  • Viewing the macula with an ophthalmoscope. Your eye doctor will be looking for early signs of the eye condition, such as drusen (tiny yellow spots under your retina) or pigment clumping.
  • Taking special photographs of the eye called fluorescein angiography to find abnormal blood vessels under the retina. Your eye doctor injects dye into a vein in your arm. As the dye flows through the blood vessels in your retina, your eye doctor takes photographs. If there are new vessels or vessels leaking fluid or blood in your macula, the photos will show their exact location and type. 
  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT). This scan provides another way to look closely at the retina. The machine scans the retina and provides very detailed images of the retina and macula

What is the treatment for age-related macular degeneration?

While there is no cure for age-related macular degeneration, there are treatments available to slow the condition or make it less severe. Treatment options may include:

  • Anti-angiogenesis drugs. These drugs block the creation of blood vessels and leaking from the vessels in your eye that cause wet macular degeneration.
  • Laser therapy. High-energy laser light can destroy abnormal blood vessels growing in your eye.
  • Photodynamic laser therapy. Your eye doctor injects a light-sensitive drug–verteporfin (Visudyne) into your bloodstream, and it is absorbed by the abnormal blood vessels. Your doctor then shines a laser into your eye to trigger the medication to damage those blood vessels.
  • Low vision aids. These low vision aids help people who have vision loss from macular degeneration make the most of their remaining vision. They are devices that have special lenses or electronic systems to create larger images of nearby things.

What is the outlook for people with macular degeneration?

It is rare for people with age-related macular degeneration to lose all of their vision. While your central vision may be bad, you can still do many normal daily activities. 

If you have the dry form of age-related macular degeneration, it is a slow progressing eye condition, so you can keep most of your vision. If you have the wet form of age-related macular degeneration, especially in both eyes, it can lead to permanent vision loss and hurt your quality of life.

Macular Degeneration Diagnosis and Treatment at FSN Eye Center

You should see your eye doctor regularly to check for signs of macular degeneration.

If you have worsening or less clear vision (blurriness), schedule an eye exam with one of our eye doctors at FSN Eye Center.  You can request an appointment online or give us a call at (815) 932-2020.