Macular Degeneration

MacularDegenerationAge-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the most common causes of poor vision after age 60. AMD is a deterioration or breakdown of the macula. The macula is a small area at the center of the retina in the back of the eye that allows us to see fine details clearly and perform activities such as reading and driving.

The visual symptoms of AMD involve loss of central vision. While peripheral (side) vision is unaffected, with AMD, one loses the sharp, straight-ahead vision necessary for driving, reading, recognizing faces, and looking at detail.

Although the specific cause is unknown, AMD seems to be part of aging. While age is the most significant risk factor for developing AMD, heredity, blue eyes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and smoking have also been identified as risk factors. AMD accounts for 90% of new cases of legal blindness in the United States.


Currently, there is no cure for macular degeneration. But there are treatments and ways to reduce the risk of vision loss caused by the condition. A new retina treatment technology uses intravitreal injections of medications that target the disease. This has helped save vision for many people who had no other treatment options.

There are other approaches that also have helped numerous patients. Vitamins and mineral treatments using vitamins A, E, and C, along with zinc may slow down the disease, as does quitting smoking.

High energy light bulbs, light tinted sunglasses and other devices increase light and contrast, and help patients see better. Surgery is becoming an option for some, and research into retinal tissue transplants is continuing. Many people can improve their vision by increasing the light and contrast. This can be accomplished by high energy light bulbs and amber or yellow tinted sunglasses.

Patients at risk for macular degeneration can help themselves through early detection. Monitoring with an Amsler grid (a box with lines that detect changes through distortion) can help patients respond promptly should the disease begin to progress.  Macular degeneration typically does not cause blindness. Central vision may be severely impaired, but side vision remains intact. Specialized lenses and other techniques can help patients with advanced macular degeneration.

For an appointment, call DiStefano Eye Center at (423) 648-3937. Or click here to contact us online.