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Macular degeneration
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Macular degeneration

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Macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness. Age-related macular degeneration is a chronic eye disease that occurs when tissue in the macula, the part of your retina that's responsible for central vision, deteriorates. The retina is the layer of tissue on the inside back wall of your eyeball. Degeneration of the macula results in blurred central vision or a blind spot in the center of your visual field.

The first sign of macular degeneration may be a need for more light when you do close-up work. Fine newsprint may become harder to read and street signs more difficult to recognize. Eventually you may notice that when you're looking at an object, what should be a smooth, straight line appears distorted or crooked. Gray or blank spots may mask the center of your visual field. The condition may progress rapidly, leading to severe vision loss in one or both eyes.

Macular degeneration affects your central vision, but not your peripheral vision; thus it doesn't cause total blindness. Still, the loss of clear central vision - critical for reading, driving, recognizing people's faces and doing detail work - greatly affects your quality of life. In most cases the damage caused by macular degeneration can't be reversed, but early detection may help reduce the extent of vision loss.

Screening and diagnosis

To determine whether you have macular degeneration, you'll undergo a thorough eye examination. One of the things your eye doctor looks for while examining the inside of your eye is the presence of drusen and mottled pigmentation in the macula.

The eye examination includes a simple test of your central vision using an Amsler grid. If you have macular degeneration, when you look at the grid some of the straight lines may seem faded, broken or distorted. By noting where the break or distortion occurs — usually on or near the center of the grid — your eye doctor can better determine the location and extent of your macular damage.

To evaluate the extent of the damage from macular degeneration, your eye doctor may use fluorescein angiography. In this procedure he or she injects fluorescent dye into a vein in your arm and takes photographs as the dye passes through blood vessels in your retina and choroid. Your doctor then uses these photographs to detect changes in macular pigmentation or the existence of abnormal blood vessels in your macula that may not be visible to the bare eye.

Macular degeneration > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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