What is Macular Degeneration?
Macular Degeneration is a medical condition often associated with aging (also referred to as “age-related Macular Degeneration”) that results in a loss of vision in the centre of your visual field. Central vision helps us to see objects clearly and perform tasks such as reading and driving.
Macular Degeneration is a progressive disease thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It can occur in ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ forms and is the major cause of visual impairment amongst adults from the age of 50.
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Dry Macular Degeneration
Dry Macular Degeneration is caused when the light-sensitive cells in the central part of your vision slowly break down. The result is that you will experience gradually blurring vision (see the image above). It may start with one or two spots, which gradually expand into larger areas, causing loss of vision.
The dry form of Macular Degeneration can be divided into three distinct stages:
- Early Macular Degeneration: causes small yellow spots under your retina (the lightsensitive tissue lining the inner surface of your eye). In this stage you will rarely experience symptoms or loss of vision.
- Intermediate Macular Degeneration: the yellow spots under your retina grow larger and expand, causing blurred spots in the centre of your vision. In this stage you may need more light to read or perform other tasks.
- Advanced Macular Degeneration: in addition to yellow spots, the light-sensitive cells in your central retinal area break down, causing a large blurred spot in the centre of your vision. This blurred spot may grow larger and darker over time. In this stage, you will experience difficulty reading and recognizing faces, unless these are very close to your eyes.
Wet Macular Degeneration
Approximately 10-15% of people with Macular Degeneration experience the ‘wet’ form. It is caused by leaking of blood and fluid from your blood vessels, located behind your retina. These fluids cause the macula (the central part of your visual field) to be raised from its normal place, causing rapid damage to your vision. One of the earliest symptoms you may experience is that straight lines appear wavy.
Normal vision vs. Macular Degeneration in an early stage
Normal vision vs. Macular Degeneration in an advanced stage
What are the symptoms of Macular Degeneration
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration include:
- blurred vision
- shadows or missing areas of vision
- distorted vision
- trouble discerning colours
- slow recovery of visual function after exposure to bright light
- a loss in contrast sensitivity
What to expect from Macular Degeneration
Macular Degeneration damages the central vision of your eye, which is responsible for approximately 35% of your visual field. You may experience difficulty recognizing faces, reading and driving. Your peripheral vision is not damaged by Macular Degeneration, so you can still lead an independent life.
More information about Macular Degeneration
There is extensive information available about Macular Degeneration. The information included is intended to inform you about the basics of this eye condition, and is not intended as a replacement for information from your physician or eye specialist. Information regarding assistive devices that can help you if you have been diagnosed with Macular Degeneration is included. Our recommendations can be found under Tools and Resources.