What is macular degeneration? Macular degeneration is a deterioration or breakdown of the macula. The macula is a small area in the retina at the back of the eye that allows you to see fine details clearly and perform activities such as reading and driving. When the macula does not 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 threading a needle or reading-difficult or impossible.
Although macular degeneration reduces vision in the central part of the retina, it usually 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 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.
What causes macular degeneration?
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 (AMO). Exactly why it develops is not known, and no treatment has been uniformly effective. Macular degeneration is a leading cause of severe vision loss in patients over 65. The two most common types of AMO are "dry" (atrophic) and "wet" (exudative):
"DRY" MACULAR DEGENERATION (ATROPHIC)
Most people have the "dry" form of AMO. It is caused by aging and thinning of the tissues of the macula. Vision loss is usually gradual.
"WET" MACULAR DEGENERATION (EXUDATIVE)
The "wet" form of macular degeneration accounts for about 10 percent of all AMO cases, but a high percentage of those cases develop significant vision loss.