This is the most common cause of visual loss in the developed world. It tends to cause a gradual loss of central vision, but can sometimes come on quite rapidly. Treatment depends upon the type and severity of the condition.
How does it affect vision?
In the early stages, central vision can become blurred and cause difficulty with reading. Colour vision can also be affected and you may also notice difficulty in recognising people's faces from a distance. Both eyes are often affected, but the degree of impairment can vary between the eyes. This condition does not affect peripheral vision so never causes complete blindness.
When should I seek medical advice?
If you notice a sudden distortion or patch of vision missing you should seek immediate medical attention as this can be a sign of 'wet' macular degeneration, which often requires urgent treatment. 'Dry' macular degeneration tends to cause a more gradual deterioration in vision. If you are concerned you should arrange to see your optometrist for an examination but be aware that gradual deterioration can be caused by other conditions such as cataract, or simply because you need a new spectacle prescription.
How is it macular degeneration treated?
Although there is no cure for either type of macular degeneration, some types of 'wet' macular degeneration can be treated with injections into the eyeball or laser to reduce the rate and severity of visual loss. It is thought that a diet rich in green leafy vegetables may also slow the progression of macular degeneration. Even if treatment is not possible, magnifiers and other visual aids can often be helpful.