Macular degeneration symptoms are important to be aware of as we age.  Macular degeneration (also know as age-related macular degeneration) is an eye disease that causes vision loss in the center of the field of vision due to retinal deterioration.  It is important to keep up with routine eye exams, because your eye care professional is likely to see signs of macular degeneration before you begin experiencing symptoms.  When symptoms do begin, they can include the following:

  • Blurry or “fuzzy” vision, which can include blurry areas on a printed page
  • Lines that should appear straight (such as sentences on a page) appearing wavy or distorted
  • Lighting difficulties, which may include sensitivity to glare, or difficulty seeing print or fine details in low light levels
  • Difficulty seeing while driving
  • Dark, blurry, or whiteout areas in the central field of vision
  • Changes in color perception (rare)

Dry vs Wet Macular Degeneration

Most people with MD have the dry form, causing yellow deposits, known as drusen, on the macula.  However, dry macular degeneration may progress to wet MD, in which the blood vessels underneath the macula start leaking fluid and blood into the retina.  This leakage can cause more severe visual distortion, blind spots, and even permanent central vision loss.

Amsler Grids to check for symptoms and disease progression

Amsler grids are sometimes given to patients once macular degeneration is diagnosed to check for symptoms at home.  Vision changes can include increased sensitivity to horizontal and vertical lines.

Amsler Grid as seen with normal vision
As seen with normal vision

Amsler grid as seen with person with AMD
As seen with AMD

For a person with macular degeneration, lines on the grid may appear wavy, distorted, or missing.  If you have been diagnosed with macular degeneration, it is important to check your vision daily and notify your eye care professional of any vision changes or new symptoms.

What are the causes of macular degeneration?

Although no scientific evidence exists on the precise cause of the disease, there are certain risk factors that may increase your chances of developing MD.  Risk factors for MD include age, environmental factors, and family history.

  1. Most people who develop macular degeneration are over the age of 50.
  2. MD diagnoses are most commonly seen in people of Caucasian decent.
  3. Cardiovascular disease may increase your chance of developing macular degeneration, and obesity may increase your chance of developing a more severe form of the disease.
  4. A family history of macular degeneration is often seen in those who are diagnosed.
  5. Finally, smoking also increases your chance of an MD diagnosis.

Patients with dry macular degeneration may see a progression to wet MD.  According to Mayo Clinic, about 10% of people with age-related macular degeneration have the wet form of the disease.  Wet MD can develop through abnormal blood vessel growth that interferes with the functioning of the retina, or through the build-up of fluid in the back of the eye that causes vision loss or distortion.

Learn More

This video describes the various symptoms of MD.

Sources: Amerra Medical (https://www.amerra.com/), Mayo Clinic (https://www.mayoclinic.org/), Vision Aware (https://visionaware.org/), WebMD (https://www.webmd.com)