Macular degeneration

Macular degeneration is an eye disease that destroys central vision by damaging a part of the retina called the macula. Side (peripheral) vision is not affected, and many people function well in spite of losing their central vision, although walking, reading, and other activities that require central vision are more difficult.

The nerve cells in the retina detect light and send signals to the brain about what the eye sees. The macula is near the center of the retina at the back of the eyeball. It provides the clear, sharp central vision that allows a person to see form, color, and detail that is directly in the line of sight. The rest of the retina provides peripheral vision.

Macular degeneration may occur in one or both eyes. The signs may range from blurry or distorted vision to a blind spot in the center of the visual field. Straight lines may appear wavy, and colors may appear faded or dim. Because macular degeneration affects only central vision, it does not lead to total blindness.

Macular degeneration most often affects people in their 60s or older. Laser treatment may prevent or delay further loss of vision in one type of macular degeneration, if the condition is detected early. There is currently no treatment to restore lost vision.

Last Updated: August 4, 2009

Author: Jeannette Curtis

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, FRCSC - Ophthalmology

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