Macular degeneration

Summary: Macular degeneration is a heterogeneous group of disorders characterized by progressive loss of central vision resulting from the degeneration of photoreceptors in the central part of the retina, the macula.

Macular degeneration is a heterogeneous group of disorders characterized by progressive loss of central vision resulting from the degeneration of photoreceptors in the central part of the retina, the macula. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common form of the disease, is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the United States and in many developed countries throughout the world.

Macular degeneration is the physical deterioration of the center of the retina called the macula. The macula, is the part of the retina which is responsible for detailed central vision. We use the macula for reading, driving, recognizing faces, watching television, and detailed work. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of legal blindness in people over age 55. Even with a loss of central vision the color vision and peripheral vision may remain clear. Vision loss usually occurs gradually and typically affects both eyes at different rates.

The causes of macular degeneration are still unknown. However, genetic predisposition plays a major role in development of disease. There are two forms of age-related macular degeneration, “wet” and “dry”. Seventy percent of patients have the “dry” form, which involves thinning of the macular tissues and disturbances in its pigmentation. The remaining thirty percent have the “wet” form, which can involve bleeding within and beneath the retina, opaque deposits, and eventually scar tissue. The “wet” form accounts for ninety percent of all cases of legal blindness in macular degeneration patients.

Different forms of macular degeneration may occur in younger patients. These forms are usually caused by gene mutations. Finding the cause is the first important step toward prevention and cure.

The following links may provide you with more information regarding macular degeneration and how you can help us find a cure. Click on the names of the organizations to visit their webpages.

The National Eye Institute has published facts about age-related macular degeneration. TheOnline Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) database is a catalog of human genes and genetic disorders authored and edited by Dr. Victor A. McKusick and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere, and developed for the World Wide Web by NCBI, the National Center for Biotechnology Information.