Macular degeneration is common in older people. In fact, it is the leading cause of visual impairment after age 50 in Western countries. It progressively affects a person's central vision, causing a significant drop in visual acuity—without destroying it. How does macular degeneration affect vision? What are the causes and symptoms of macular degeneration? These are the questions we'll be answering in this article.

Macular degeneration | Definition

Macular degeneration is a progressive eye disease that affects the macula, a small part of the retina located in the center of the eye. The macula plays an important role in central vision. It is made up of specialized cells equipped with photoreceptors. It is thanks to the macula that the eye can see fine details, such as:

  • Reading small print
  • Facial feature recognition
  • Colour distinction in the central part of an image

When the macula is damaged, central vision becomes blurred, while peripheral vision remains intact.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common form in people over 50. Juvenile macular degeneration (JMD), or Stargardt disease, is much rarer and develops in children and young adults.
What causes macular degeneration?
JMD, or Stargardt disease, is an inherited disorder caused by genetic mutations. It causes central vision loss in young people.

The causes of age-related macular degeneration are still partly unknown. However, certain parameters increase the risk of being affected by this disease after the age of 50:

  • Heredity
  • Smoking
  • Cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Prolonged unprotected exposure to UV rays

Smoking is a factor that increases the risk of AMD by 2 to 4 times, accelerating its progression. Intense exposure to ultraviolet rays also increases the risk of developing AMD. A good pair of sunglasses is all you need to protect your eyes in winter and summer alike.

Some studies have linked high blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease to macular degeneration. These risk factors can influence the development and progression of eye disease.

What are the symptoms of macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration mainly affects central vision. However, the symptoms of macular degeneration can vary from person to person. It's important to make an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam in all cases.

Here are the symptoms that should alert you:

Loss of central vision

As macular degeneration progresses, there may be a progressive loss of central vision. Objects directly in front of the person may appear blurred, making reading and face recognition difficult.

Peripheral vision is usually preserved. This enables people with macular degeneration to get around and perform certain tasks.

Distorted vision

Another common symptom of macular degeneration is distorted vision. Straight lines may appear wavy or curved, and objects may appear distorted or twisted.

Dark or empty spots

Some people may see dark, blurred, black or gray spots in their central field of vision.

Difficulties with colour perception

Deterioration of central vision can make it more difficult to distinguish between certain shades of colour.

In people over 50, AMD takes many forms. Consulting an eye care specialist will enable you to obtain an accurate diagnosis to treat the disease more effectively.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us. The entire IRIS team is here to help you look after your eyes so that you can continue to capture the beauty of the world around you.