What is Macular Degeneration? - Medical Eye Center, Medford, Grants Pass, Oregon

What is Macular Degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration is a deterioration or breakdown of the macula. The macula is the central part of the retina, a thin layer of light sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. The macula allows you to see fine details clearly and perform activities such as reading and driving. When the macula doesn’t 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 reading small print or threading a needle, difficult or impossible.

Although macular degeneration reduces vision in the central part of your vision, 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 usually 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.

Macular Degeneration Overview

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Macular Degeneration Causes

There are different kinds of macular problems, but the most common is age-related macular degeneration. Exactly how it develops is not fully understood, but many factors such as your genetics, inflammation and environmental factors are thought to play a role. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over 65.

Many people do not realize that they have a macular problem until blurred vision becomes obvious. Your doctor can detect early stages of macular degeneration during a medical eye examination that includes the following:

  • An Amsler grid vision test in which you look at a chart that resembles graph paper.
  • Viewing the macula with an ophthalmoscope.
  • Sometimes special photographs of the eye, such as optical coherence tomography (OCT) and fluorescein angiographs, are taken to find abnormal blood vessels under the retina. With fluorescein angiographs, a fluorescent dye is injected into a vein in your arm and your eye is photographed as the dye passes through the blood vessels in the back of the eye.

Macular Degeneration Prevention: Introduction

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Types of Macular Degeneration


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Visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s webpage on Macular Degeneration.