Macular degeneration is a progressive retinal condition that causes painless loss of central vision in patients over the age of 60.
The macula is the center of the retina, a light-sensing structure in the back of the eye. In macular degeneration, the central retina accumulates waste products of vision, becomes inflamed, and experiences a drop in blood flow. Over time the retinal cells responsible for vision (photoreceptors) drop out, resulting in loss of central vision. In some cases, the macula may swell or bleed, resulting in a rapid loss of vision.
The causes of macular degeneration remain largely unknown, but there are several risk factors that contribute to the chances of developing macular degeneration. The largest risk factors include advanced age, family history, and tobacco use.
Treatments for macular degeneration include antioxidant vitamins and eye injections. Patients experiencing vision changes consistent with macular degeneration should consult their ophthalmologist for a dilated exam.