Age-Related Macular Degeneration is the most common cause of macular degeneration. The macula is the center part of the retina which converts images to electrical impulses that are sent to the brain. It is similar to the film in a camera. The cornea and lens focus images onto the retina. The retina converts these images to electrical impulses that are sent via the optic nerve to the brain.
The macula is the central portion of the retina and is thus/ therefore responsible for central vision. Over time, the macula can have an accumulation of by-products of image processing by its cells. The by-products are known as drusen. Accumulation of drusen over time results in weaker cells and therefore weaker vision. Vision problems may include blurriness, distortion of print, and distortion of straight lines. These types of vision problems are usually not correctable with glasses (refraction).
Over time, drusen can yield to loss of cells/ tissue known as atrophy. This type of macular degeneration is known as “dry” or non-exudative macular degeneration. It is typically slow to progress and can take months to years. In the early stages, some patients don’t know they have dry ARMD because the drusen haven’t affected the vision. However, yearly DILATED!!!! eye examinations will allow the doctor to check for signs of macular changes.
Another type of macular degeneration is known as wet or exudative macular degeneration. This is called “wet” because a blood vessel grows under the macular tissue and leaks clear fluid and / or blood. It is typically a sudden, painless process and can result in vision impairment. Sometimes patients are unaware for a few weeks because the fellow eye still sees well and compensates. This type of macular degeneration is typically treated with injections.