What is Macular Degeneration?
Macular Degeneration typically occurs in people as they age, hence the term "age-related macular degeneration" (ARMD or AMD). There are two types: wet macular degeneration (exudative) and dry macular degeneration (atrophic). As people age, parts of the retina may deteriorate, particularly as retinal pigment levels diminish and protective layers are lost.
Macular degeneration affects the area of the retina called the macula, the part of the eye responsible for central vision. A person with this condition has difficulty seeing detailed objects such as small print, faces, or street signs. New evidence demonstrates that Contrast Sensitivity, or the ability to discriminate between different shades of grey, becomes decreased prior to detectable vision loss. As the disease progresses, affected areas of the macula often cause "scotomas," or small central areas of vision loss. These areas may cause objects to appear faded, disappear, or look distorted and straight lines may look wavy. Peripheral vision is typically not affected and macular degeneration does not generally cause total blindness, but the effects are devastating nonetheless.
Possible Causes and Risk Factors of Macular Degeneration
Although the cause of macular degeneration is not clear, possible causes and risk factors may include: reduction of macular pigment in the fovea area of the retina, lack of certain dietary intake of vitamins and minerals, breakdown in circulation to the retina, untreated health conditions such as high blood pressure, excessive exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun, heredity, and cigarette smoking.