Macular degeneration

Macular Degeneration

Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Alternative Name: Age-related macular degeneration, senile macular degeneration.

Abbreviation: ARMD.

Macular degeneration is an eye disorder that damages the center of the retina, which is called the macula.

Macula of the eye: The macula is located at the center of the retina, a light-sensitive tissue which lines the back of the eye. The retina receives images of external objects, then sends them as impulses to the brain. The macula provides us with central vision and allows us to see fine detail, such as recognizing a face, reading, or watching television. When the macula becomes damaged, extreme and dramatic vision loss can occur.

It is the most common cause of legal blindness in people over the age of 50 in the western world.


    Early stage: Several small drusen or a few medium-sized drusen are detected on the macula in one or both eyes. Generally, there is no vision loss in the earliest stage.

  • Intermediate stage: Many medium-sized drusen or one or more large drusen are detected in one or both eyes. At this stage, your central vision may start to blur and you may need extra light for reading or doing detail work.

  • Advanced stage: Several large drusen, as well as extensive breakdown of light-sensitive cells in the macula, are detected. This causes a well-defined spot of blurring in your central vision. The blurred area may become larger and more opaque over time.


    Dry ARMD.

  • Wet ARMD.

Scientists are not sure what causes ARMD. The disease is most common in people over 60, which is why it is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration.

Risk Factors May Include:

    Having a family history of macular degeneration.

  • Caucasian race.

  • Cigarette smoking.

  • High-fat diet.

  • Female gender.

  • Obesity.

  • Having high blood pressure.

  • Having high cholesterol.


Symptoms may include:

    Blurred vision.

  • A patient may have trouble reading print.

  • Straight lines appear distorted and wavy.

  • In the later stages, you may not be able to recognize faces until people are close to you.


If you are over age 60 or above and you have had changes in vision, your eye care provider will do an examination. During the exam, the doctor will use drops to enlarge (dilate) your pupils, and a special lens to view your retina and optic nerve.

The doctor will look for changes in the blood vessels and the membrane that surrounds them. This may show drusen, the yellow deposits that form on this membrane in dry macular degeneration.

You may be asked to cover one eye and look at a pattern of lines called an Amsler grid. If the straight lines appear wavy, it may be a sign of ARMD.

Other tests may include:

    Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT): This noninvasive imaging test helps identify and display areas of retinal thickening or thinning. Such changes are associated with macular degeneration. It's often used to help monitor the response of the retina to macular degeneration treatments.

  • Fluorescein angiogram: During an angiogram of your eye, a colored dye is injected into a vein in your arm. The dye travels to the blood vessels in your eye. A special camera is used to take pictures of your eye. The pictures show the dye highlighting the blood vessels in your eye. Your eye doctor uses the information from the angiogram images to determine whether the back of your eye shows blood vessel or retinal abnormalities, such as those that might be associated with wet macular degeneration.


No treatment exists for dry macular degeneration. However, a combination of vitamins, antioxidants, and zinc may slow the progression of the disease. Smokers should not use this treatment.

Other treatment options:

Laser photocoagulation: In laser photocoagulation, a laser is used to provide a concentrated beam of high-energy light. When the light comes in contact with the parts of the retina to be treated, it turns to heat and destroys the abnormal blood vessels.

Photodynamic therapy: A light activates a drug that is injected into your body to destroy leaking blood vessels. In this procedure, a light-activated drug known as Visudyne™ is injected into the patient's bloodstream. Once the drug reaches the retina, it is activated by a non-thermal laser (A laser that does not burn the retina). This produces a clot that closes the abnormal vessels without causing damage to the overlying sensory retina. The abnormal blood vessels may return after several months. However, Visudyne therapy can be reapplied at up to 3 month intervals if necessary.

Low-vision aids (such as special lenses) and therapy can help you use the vision that you have more effectively, and improve your quality of life.

Preventive Measures: Changing your diet to include more fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods may help you prevent vision loss if you have been diagnosed with macular degeneration.

Disclaimer: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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