September 01, 2013

Macular degeneration

Early treatment important

Macular degeneration

Other than minor changes to your eyeglass prescriptions, your annual eye exams have been uneventful. However, this year was another story. Your doctor said there are early signs of age-related macular degeneration.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a chronic eye disease that can affect the central area of your field of vision. It occurs when there's deterioration of the tissue in the macula, the part of your retina responsible for central vision and your ability to clearly see fine details. The retina is the light-detecting layer of tissue on the inside of your eyeball's back wall.

Although macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss in older adults, early detection and improved treatment options make it possible to delay it and potentially preserve vision.

Sight unseen

For many people, macular degeneration comes on gradually, usually affecting both eyes. In addition to aging, risk factors for macular degeneration include a family history of the disease, being white, smoking, a history of stroke or coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol. Research also suggests obesity may increase the risk of macular degeneration.

Symptoms of macular degeneration may be absent or slight even when it's detected during a routine eye exam. The first symptoms may be blurriness — printed material may become harder to read and street signs more difficult to recognize. Colors may appear less bright, and you may find an increasing need for brighter light to see up close. Recognizing faces may become difficult as a...