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Symptoms of Macular Degeneration

 

Photo depicting advanced macular degenerationDuring the early stages of macular degeneration, and if only one eye is affected, there may be no symptoms. Additionally, neither form of macular degeneration (dry or wet) causes pain. However, an ophthalmologist may be able to detect early signs of the disease before symptoms appear. Therefore, it is very important to have regular eye examinations to detect these signs as soon as possible.

Often, the dry form of macular degeneration initially causes slightly blurred central vision, both close up and far. The center of vision may become fuzzy or shadowed, and this area grows larger as the disease progresses. Blind spots may develop, and it is normally more difficult to see color and fine detail.

Commonly, in wet macular degeneration, in addition to the above symptoms, straight lines may appear wavy. Also, in this more severe form, central vision loss can occur rapidly, sometimes within days or weeks.

In terms of daily life, age-related macular degeneration can lead to the following problems:

  • Visual field defect
    The wide angle of vision observable by a healthy eye is called the "visual field." As age-related macular degeneration progresses, the center of a person's visual field may become smudged, distorted, or lost. This causes problems with reading, driving, watching TV, and recognizing faces.

  • Contrast sensitivity
    It becomes more difficult to see textures and subtle changes in the environment. An inability to see slight contrasts and textures in pavements or stairs can be dangerous and lead to an increased risk of falls. There may be difficulty in distinguishing between two colors of a similar hue when placed side by side.

  • Poor tolerance for changing light levels
    It may become difficult for the eyes to adjust when driving and walking at sunset, or when going from a well-lighted room to a darker one. Glare can worsen the problem. For example, a bright shaft of sunlight streaming in through a window may cause everything outside the glare to "black out."

  • Need for higher light levels
    Brighter light levels may be needed for reading, cooking, and performing day-to-day tasks

  • Impaired depth perception
    An inability to properly judge distances can also make walking harder, potentially leading to missteps and falls.


Disclaimer: The information provided is a public service of the BrightFocus Foundation and is not intended to constitute medical advice. It should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice; all medications and supplements should only be taken under medical supervision. BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product or therapy.

Source: Some of the information in this section of our website was obtained from the National Eye Institute and the National Library of Medicine.

Last Review: 08/23/13


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