Macular degeneration is an age-related disease or damage to the macula, the center part of the retina (see normal eye anatomy – link). Although the exact cause of macular degeneration is currently being researched, retina specialists believe that many factors play a role in the development of the disease including damage from UV light, genetic factors and inflammation. There are two forms of macular degeneration: “dry” and “wet.”
“Dry” macular degeneration is more common than the wet form. It is usually very slowly progressive and does not cause as much damage to the retina as the “wet” form. Many patients with dry macular degeneration can have good vision for most or all of their lives. The signs of dry macular degeneration are “drusen” or protein deposits that build up underneath the retina (see picture below). Much research is currently being done to find a treatment or cure for dry macular degeneration. Your retina specialist may advise you to take particular vitamins that have been shown to decrease the risk of worsening macular degeneration. Your retina specialist may also advise you to monitor your vision at home with an Amsler Grid. If you note changes in your vision with an Amsler Grid you should see your retina specialist immediately.
“Wet” macular degeneration is less common than dry macular degeneration but can cause more vision problems. Wet macular degeneration means that abnormal blood vessels have grown underneath the macula, which can leak blood or fluid causing blurred vision, visual distortion or sudden loss of central vision. New treatments are available in our office to treat wet macular degeneration and to reverse its effects. Early treatment usually results in a better prognosis, so we encourage patients with wet macular degeneration to seek treatment by a retina specialist promptly.