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Macular Degeneration


Macular degeneration is a disease of the macula. It is a small area in the retina at the back of the eye. The macula gives you the ability to see fine details and to do activities such as driving and reading. If your macula is not working properly, your vision may be blurry and have dark or distorted areas. Macular degeneration makes it difficult for you to see near and far and can make many activities such as reading difficult. It is the most common cause of severe vision loss in people older than 50 years of age.

Macular degeneration generally reduces vision in the central art of the retina, it usually does not affect the side or peripheral vision.  Macular degeneration does not usually cause total blindness.  People usually continue to have some useful vision which allows them to take care of themselves in many cases.  In some cases there is little vision loss and in other cases it can be severe.  

Many people develop macular degeneration as part of the aging process.  The most common form of macular problems is age-related macular degeneration (AMD or ARMD).  

Major risk factors for developing AMD are:
●    50 years of age of older
●    Family history of AMD
●    Cigarette smoking
Another risk factor for developing AMD includes having abnormal cholesterol levels.

The two most common types of AMD are dry and wet.

Dry Macular Degeneration

Dry macular degeneration accounts for 90% of cases.  The condition is caused by aging and thinning of the macular tissues.  Loss of vision is gradual. People with this form often have difficulty adjusting to light changes. 

Wet Macular Degeneration

Wet AMD accounts for ten percent of the cases.  Vision loss may be very significant for these people.  Wet AMD results when abnormal blood vessels form underneath the retina and leak fluid or blood.  Loss of vision can be rapid and very severe.


Symptoms of macular degeneration can vary from person to person.  It is possible that people may hardly notice AMD in the early stages.  Sometimes vision loss may occur in only one eye while the other continues to see well for years.

Vision loss can be detected when dark or empty areas appear in the center of vision, words on a page are blurred, or straight lines look distorted.


Macular degeneration is diagnosed by dilating the pupils and examining the retina with an ophthalmoscope.  Other tests may include fluorescein angiography or optical coherence tomography to detect wet macular degeneration.  People who are at risk of macular degeneration should have regular eye examination and if diagnosed, begin appropriate treatment. 

Macular degeneration can be treated several different ways to including nutritional supplements, anti- VEGF drugs, laser therapy and photodynamic therapy.  The goal of these procedures is to save more of your sight.  People who are at risk of macular degeneration should have regular eye examination and if diagnosed, begin appropriate treatment.  You should schedule an appointment with Dr. Harkins to see which choice is best for you.

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