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All About Macular Degeneration

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Updated November 13, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Macular degeneration, often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (ARMD or AMD), is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. Macular degeneration usually affects older adults and causes loss of vision in the center of the visual field, due to damage to the retina.

Causes of Macular Degeneration:

Macular degeneration is associated with advanced age, but research indicates that the disease may be hereditary. Smoking also seems to be directly related to developing macular degeneration.

Symptoms of Macular Degeneration:

Vision loss in early cases of macular degeneration is so gradual that most people do not notice it. Pain is not usually experienced. As the disease progresses, vision may be blurred and objects may appear distorted. However, in some cases, vision loss can be sudden.

Types of Macular Degeneration:

There are two major types of age-related macular degeneration -- "dry" macular degeneration and "wet" macular degeneration. The dry form is more common and is less likely to lead to serious loss of vision than the wet form. People with dry macular degeneration may progress to the wet form over time.

Diagnosis of Macular Degeneration:

Early signs of macular degeneration can usually be detected before symptoms appear through a dilated retinal examination. If macular degeneration is suspected, you eye doctor will conduct further testing.

Treatment of Macular Degeneration:

Although there is no known cure for macular degeneration, treatments may delay the progression of the disease and help to improve vision loss that may have occurred.
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