Macular degeneration (MD) is the umbrella term given to over 1,500 eye conditions, which affect central vision due to damage to the macula; a small area of the retina at the back of the eye.
It is estimated that there are over 500,000 people with macular conditions in the UK, and it is the most common form of visual impairment in the United Kingdom and throughout the developed world.
Wet MD occurs when tiny abnormal blood vessels begin to grow behind the retina towards the macula. They usually leak blood or fluid, damaging the macula and thus causing a rapid loss of central vision.
Dry MD causes a gradual deterioration of the macula, usually over many years. The term ‘dry’ is used to indicate that the deterioration has not been caused by leaky blood vessels, as is the case with Wet MD.
A person may have a Dry form of MD in one eye, and then develop Wet MD in the same or opposite eye. If MD occurs in one eye, it is a possibility that it could affect the opposite eye within five years. However, the speed of progression of MD varies in each individual.
MD affects different people in different ways, and you may not notice any change in your vision during the early stages of the disease. As the cells in the macula deteriorate, your ability to see will change.
Objects directly in front of you may change shape, size or colour and may appear to move or disappear. Your vision may become blurry, lines may become distorted or dark spots can appear in the centre of your field of vision.
MD may cause an area of blindness, which at normal reading distance may block out several words. You may also develop problems seeing in bright sunlight, experience glare and find it harder to adapt from dark to light conditions.