Macular degeneration is an eye disorder that gradually develops with age. It is also sometimes called age-related macular degeneration. The macula is the part of the eye that provides sharp vision for seeing clearly, and the disorder gradually destroys this type of vision.
Macular degeneration usually develops people older than 50, and it's the leading cause of severe vision loss in that age group. There are two forms of the disease, described as “dry” macular degeneration, and "wet." The dry type affects about 90 percent of people with the eye disease.
Causes and Symptoms
Though macular degeneration tends to develop as people age, some factors put people at greater risk. They include having a family history of the disease, being of Caucasian descent and smoking.
When macular degeneration begins to occur, vision often becomes blurry or distorted, with straight lines appearing wavy. The ability to see color may also be affected, or there may be a dark or empty area in the center of your vision.
Prevention and Treatment
“Dry” macular degeneration cannot be cured, but certain behaviors early in life are believed to help prevent the disease. These include quitting smoking, exercising regularly and eating a diet rich in healthy fats, such as fish, and leafy green vegetables. Regular supplement use may also be helpful.
The rare form of “wet” macular degeneration progresses rapidly, but it can be treated if detected early. Treatment options include laser therapy or medications that seal the leaking blood vessels. The treatments do not necessarily cure the condition, but they can delay its progress.
SOURCES: U.S. National Eye Institute; American Optometric Association