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 causes 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 a grid, some of the straight
lines appear distorted or crooked. Gray or blank spots may mask the
center of your visual field. The condition usually develops
gradually, but may sometimes 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.
The condition tends to develop as you get older, hence the
"age-related" part of its name. Macular degeneration is the leading
cause of severe vision loss in people age 60 and older. More than
1.6 million American adults have the advanced form of age-related