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Eye and Vision Care

Macular Degeneration

What is macular degeneration?

Your eye is like a camera. The retina functions like the film inside a camera. It is light-sensitive tissue that lines the inside of the eye and captures pictures of the outside world. The macula is a special part of the retina that lets you see fine details in the center of your vision.

In macular degeneration, breakdown products build up in the macula. These deposits are called “drusen,” and they prevent the retina from getting the nutrients and oxygen it needs to survive.

It is the leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 and older, and we do not know why some people get macular degeneration. It is not painful, and it can cause progressively worse blurry vision. You can get macular degeneration in one eye, or both. It does not spread from one eye to the other.

There are two types:

Who gets macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in Americans 60 and older.

You are more likely to get macular degeneration if you have or are:

What are the symptoms?

How do I know if I have macular degeneration?

You might have some of the symptoms in the list above, or you might have no symptoms at all if your macular degeneration is in the early stages.

When you go to the eye doctor, he can see your retina through an instrument called the ophthalmoscope, or by looking through the microscope. If you have macular degeneration, he will see yellow deposits called “drusen” in the back of your eye. Normal Eye Eye with Early Macular Degeneration

How fast does macular degeneration develop?

In some people, macular degeneration develops very slowly. You might notice some blurry vision and trouble with seeing fine details that slowly gets worse over years.

In other people, macular degeneration progresses much faster. If you have the wet type of macular degeneration, you are in danger of losing your vision in one or both eyes.

Is there anything I can do to prevent macular degeneration?

Unfortunately, we do not know why some people get macular degeneration, and there is no way to prevent it. However, you can reduce your risk by doing the following:

What are the treatment options?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for macular degeneration.

There is no treatment for dry macular degeneration. However, there are a few things that may slow the progression:

There are a few treatment options for wet macular degeneration. These treatments cannot restore vision, but they can prevent further damage.


Prepared in partnership with Lily Huang, MD, Class of 2013, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

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Last Reviewed: Oct 01, 2012

Suber S Huang, MD, MBA Suber S Huang, MD, MBA
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University