Macular degeneration is an age-related disease which has a negative impact on the retina. The macula, which is the center of vision in the retina, is damaged as the disease progresses or worsens. Macular degeneration can be categorized into “wet” and “dry” forms. The dry form of macular degeneration may involve calcifications forming in the retina, and the retinal cells may begin to decrease through a process call atrophy. The wet form of macular degeneration involves new blood vessels growing under the retina, causing scarring and swelling on the retinal tissues.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of poor vision in senior age patients. The condition involves the macula breaking down. It causes vision to become gray or hazy and in some areas vision is lost. The exact cause of the breakdown of the retina is unknown but studies have shown a relationship between smoking, high cholesterol, or genetics causing a person to develop macular degeneration.
Decreased function of the central retina is a direct result of macular degeneration. The retina is the most important part of the vision process. As the retina becomes worse, a patient will notice objects not appearing as colorful as they once had. Progressively, the disease causes more damage to the retina and objects may appear to be missing pieces. Lines that used to be straight may suddenly be blurry or wavy.
Currently, there is no cure for macular degeneration but there are a number of treatments available that may slow the process or halt the disease. Studies are always underway to determine the exact cause and develop a cure. Most macular degeneration patients will only experience mild to moderate visual loss over time. If wet macular degeneration occurs, vision loss may occur much more rapidly and can be severe. Patients may gain a little vision with treatments but once vision is lost it is hard to restore.