Macular Degeneration and Me

Low Vision and High Hope

Simple Definitions

Providing the simplest and most straightforward definitions of the words I use when writing about macular degeneration is necessary.  Having said that, it is important for you to understand that this is a highly complicated disease and there is nothing really simple or straightforward about it but becoming familiar with the terminology is very helpful.  I am using definitions provided to me by my ophthalmologist with a few comments by me.  If you wish more medical type definitions, please check with the National Eye Institute or your medical professional.

MACULA where it all starts is a small oval-shaped area at the center of the retina.  Light-sensitive cells located there send visual signals to the brain.  Sharp, clear vision processed by the macula allows a person to read, do fine detail work and drive. Damage to the macula causes blurred or distorted vision with possible loss of central vision.

AGE-RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION (referred to as ARMD or AMD or Ma Degen) is a progressive eye disease that causes the breakdown of the macula. It is painless, almost always develops in both eyes although one may be more severely affected.  (In my case my left eye is much more damaged).  The disease usually progresses slowly but is dependent on which of the two types a person has.

DRY ARMD is the most common type affecting 85-90% of the people with the disease.  Small yellowish deposits called drusen start to form and collect beneath the macula.  As the disease advances through the early, intermediate and advanced stages the ability to read, recognize faces, drive and do detailed work becomes more difficult as the number and size od the drusen grow.  A large blurry spot in the central field of vision may appear.  (Mine is like two smudgy pale gray fingerprints)

WET ARMD caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the macula occurs in about 10% of the people with macular degeneration. These are very fragile and often leak fluid damaging the macula and causing visual cells to die.  Wet macular degeneration is considered advanced and severe vision loss can occur rapidly.  An early symptom of the wet type of the disease is that straight lines seem wavy or crooked.  (That’s why it’s important to use the Amsler Grid every day – see info on its use in Learn More).  (My diagnosis of wet macular degeneration occurred in January 2008).  

MACULAR PUCKER is scar tissue that forms over the macula.  As the scar tissue grows it pulls on the macula causing a wrinkle and distorts and blurs central vision.  (My new ophthalmologist discovered a macular pucker in my left eye in the fall of 2010).).  There is a surgical procedure to peel the pucker away from the macula.  

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