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Macular Degeneration

by Amy Scholten, MPH

Macular degeneration is a chronic and usually progressive disorder that affects the central part of the retina (the macula) and causes reduced ability to see. Macular degeneration causes a gradual loss of sharp, central vision.

Macular Degeneration

Copyright 2005 Nucleus Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the United States and the frequency of this disorder increases with age. Most people with this disorder are over the age of 50. The majority of affected people are between 75 and 80. Males and females are equally affected.

Adult macular degeneration (AMD), which is the most common form of macular degeneration, occurs in two main forms:

Dry Macular Degeneration

90% of people with AMD have this type. An area of the retina is affected, which leads to slow breakdown of cells in the macula, and a gradual loss of central vision. Dry AMD often occurs in one eye first, but usually affects both eyes eventually. Currently there is no way of knowing if both eyes will be affected.

Wet Macular Degeneration

Although only 10% of all people with AMD have this type, it accounts for 90% of all blindness from the disease. As dry AMD progresses, new blood vessels may begin to grow and cause "wet" AMD. These new blood vessels often leak blood and fluid under the macula. This causes rapid damage to the macula that can lead to loss of central vision in a short time.


American Macular Degeneration Foundation.

Macular Degeneration Foundation.

National Eye Institute.

Last reviewed October 2004 by Marc Ellman, MD

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