What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration is a painless disease which causes visual loss in older persons. The extent of visual loss is variable and most patients with macular degeneration do not have severe visual loss. Macular degeneration is named for the macula which is the part of the retina responsible for central vision. The remainder of the retina gives peripheral or “side” vision. Macular degeneration causes decreased central or reading vision but usually does not affect peripheral vision. Macular degeneration is the most frequent cause of severe visual loss in persons over age 65 and the risk of developing macular degeneration increases with age. It does not cause complete blindness and most persons with macular degeneration retain enough vision to be able to care for themselves and walk around without assistance.
The symptoms of macular degeneration include blurred, dim or distorted vision. Some people note a black spot in front of their central vision. Central vision is essential to allow people to read and drive so macular degeneration may be first recognized by difficulty reading or difficulty reading road signs while driving. Most macular degeneration has a gradual onset and many patients don’t realize they are losing vision. The symptoms usually develop first in one eye so unfortunately the symptoms of macular degeneration are often missed until a person covers the unaffected eye. Loss of central vision in one or both eyes should result in a prompt visit to your eye doctor. The following test will help you determine if you may have macular degeneration.