Macular degeneration is a term to describe the breakdown of the macula, a small area in the center back of the retina. This deterioration causes severe vision problems and interferes with the eye’s ability to distinguish precise details making it difficult to drive, read or perform other tasks requiring fine vision.

There are two forms of macular degeneration, dry and wet. The overwhelming majority of individuals who suffer from macular degeneration have the atrophic or dry form.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is common form of dry macular degeneration that occurs as the eye ages. AMD is linked to family history, race (macular degeneration occurs more often in Caucasians) and smokers. Other risk factors include obesity, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and a diet lacking fruits and vegetables.

Most people don’t recognize the early symptoms of macular degeneration since vision changes happen gradually, but the condition is easily detectable on a medical eye exam. That’s why it’s important to have a vision screening every one to two years.

Treatment options for macular degeneration include nutritional supplements such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, zinc and copper, which can be used in combination to reduce the chance of developing the advanced form of dry macular degeneration or even wet form macular degeneration.

Other treatment options are based on the type and severity of macular degeneration but may include anti-angiogenesis inhibitor drugs that work to stop new blood vessels formation under the macula, laser therapy and photodynamic laser therapy. If vision loss is severe in both eyes, some patients may meet the criteria for a surgically implanted telescopic lens.

Since macular degeneration doesn’t affect peripheral (side) vision, magnifying devices, large-print reading materials and closed circuit television systems for the visually impaired may also be beneficial.

Coping with vision deterioration due to macular degeneration is challenging, but regular ongoing treatment can slow the rate of vision loss and protect remaining vision.