Macular Degeneration

  • Medical Author:
    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, FACS

    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist. Dr. Dahl's educational background includes a BA with Honors and Distinction from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, and an MD from Cornell University, where he was selected for Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society. He had an internal medical internship at the New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Eye Problems Pictures Slideshow: Recognize These Common Eye Conditions

What are risk factors for macular degeneration?

The greatest risk factor is age. Although AMD may occur during middle age, studies show that people over age 60 are clearly at greater risk than other age groups. Middle-aged people have about a 2% risk of getting AMD while people over age 75 have a nearly 30% risk.

Other risk factors include smoking, obesity, white race, female gender, a family history of macular degeneration, a diet low in fruit and vegetables, high blood pressure, and elevated blood cholesterol.

What are macular degeneration symptoms?

Neither dry nor wet AMD cause any eye pain.

The most common early symptom in dry AMD is blurred vision. As fewer cells in the macula are able to function, people will see details less clearly in front of them, such as faces or words in a book. Often this blurred vision will go away in brighter light. If the loss of these light-sensing cells becomes great, people may see a small black or gray blind spot in the middle of their field of vision.

Dry macular degeneration symptoms usually develop gradually and do not include total blindness. However, the symptoms may worsen the quality of life by making reading, driving, and facial recognition difficult Other symptoms may include decreased night vision, a decrease in the intensity or brightness of colors, increase in the haziness of overall vision.

Dry macular degeneration may affect one eye or both eyes. If only one eye is affected, symptoms may not be noticed because the unaffected eye has no visual symptoms.

All of the above symptoms may also be noticed in the wet form of AMD. In addition, the most common symptom in wet macular degeneration is straight lines appearing crooked or wavy. This results when fluid from the leaking blood vessels gathers within and lifts the macula, distorting vision. Larger areas of gray or black in the central area of vision may also occur. The central vision may decrease over a short period of time.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/7/2015
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