What causes Macular Degeneration?
The root causes of macular degeneration are still unknown. There are
two forms of age-related macular degeneration, "wet" and
The majority of patients have the "dry" form, which
involves thinning of the macular tissues and disturbances in its
The minority of patients have the "wet" form, which can involve
bleeding within and beneath the retina, opaque deposits, and
eventually scar tissue.
Different forms of macular degeneration may occur in younger
These non-age related cases may be linked to heredity, diabetes,
nutritional deficits, head injury, infection, or other factors.
Scientists are undertaking the basic research necessary to determine
the causes of these disorders. Finding the cause is the first
important step toward prevention and cure.
How is macular degeneration detected?
Declining vision noticed by the patient or by an ophthalmologist
during a routine eye exam may be the first indicator of macular
The formation of new blood vessels and exudates, or "drusen,"
from blood vessels in and under the macular is often the first
physical sign that macular degeneration may develop.
In addition, the following signs may be indicative of macular
problems. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should consult an
Straight lines appear distorted and, in some cases, the center of
vision appears more distorted than the rest of the scene.
A dark, blurry area or "white-out" appears in the center
Color perception changes or diminishes.
Is early detection important?
Early detection is important because a patient destined to develop
macular degeneration can sometimes be treated before symptoms appear,
and this may delay or reduce the severity of the disease.
Furthermore, as we develop better treatments for macular
degeneration, whether they are medicinal, surgical, or low vision
aids, those patients diagnosed with macular degeneration can sooner
benefit from them.
If I have macular degeneration in one eye, will it develop in the
- Yes, this is usually the case. In the early stages, only one eye may
be affected, but as the disease progresses, both eyes are usually
Is there a cure for Macular Degeneration?
At this time there is no known cure for macular degeneration. In
some cases, macular degeneration may be active and then slow down
considerably, or even stop progressing for many, many years.
Today, there are ways to arrest macular degeneration, depending on
the type and the degree of the condition. These range from nutritional
intervention to laser surgery of the blood vessels (see below).
We also have developed low vision aids and techniques for maximizing
the use of peripheral vision to help patients adapt better to their
loss of central vision.
Educating susceptible groups about macular degeneration can enhance
early detection and early treatment.
We advise that a patient select and eye center that specializes in
macular degeneration and get opinions for treatment from retina
Is Macular Degeneration hereditary?
Macular degeneration appears to be hereditary in some families but
not in others. Since macular degeneration affects most patients later
in life, it is difficult to study successive generations in a family.
Recent studies of twins indicate that both genetic and non-genetic
factors play important roles in age-related macular degeneration.
Research to determine the genes associated with hereditary macular
degeneration will help lead to early detection, early intervention,
and possible cures.
Does sunlight affect Macular Degeneration?
Yes. It has been demonstrated that the blue rays of the spectrum
seem to accelerate macular degeneration more than other rays of the
This means that very bright light, such as sunlight or its
reflection in the ocean and desert, may worsen macular degeneration.
Special sunglasses that block out the blue end of the spectrum may
decrease the progress of the disease. Again, more research is needed
in this area.
Does smoking or second hand smoke contribute to Macular
- Yes. Any type of smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke can accelerate
the development of the "wet" type of macular degeneration.
What can I do to help prevent and cure Macular
Have annual routine eye exams
See your ophthalmologist without delay if you notice any decline in
Last Revised: August 17, 2010