Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a disorder that affects the retina, the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye where images are focused. The macula (the area on the retina responsible for sharp central vision) deteriorates, causing blurred vision. This can cause difficulty reading and, for some, a blind spot in the central area of vision.

Macular Degeneration illustration showing a cross section of the eye with the retina, blood vessels and optic nerve labeled at the back of the eye and an area labeled damaged macula between the optic nerve and the front of the eye
Image credit: BruceBlaus

The most common form of age-related macular degeneration is known as non-exudative, or the “dry” form, in which vision loss usually progresses slowly. More rapid and severe vision loss comes from exudative, or the “wet” form, of macular degeneration. In the wet form, abnormal blood vessels develop under the macula and leak fluid and blood.

The exact cause is unknown. Although age is the primary contributing factor, cigarette smoking and nutrition can also play a role in the development of age-related macular degeneration. A hereditary juvenile form of macular generation can also cause vision loss.

photo from point of view of someone with macular degeneration, two young boys holding balls with a blurry gray spot obscuring their faces
Photo credit: National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health

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