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The Macula is a very small and important part of the retina that is responsible for central vision. It is much more sensitive to detail when compared to the rest of the retina. The macula is the part of the eye that helps you see to read street signs, to thread a needle, and to read small print as well as many other small, detail-oriented tasks.
Diseases of the MaculaThere are various diseases that affect the retina and macula. The most common being age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD occurs as a very common part of the aging process. Prevalence is high in individuals 50 years of age and older. AMD is the leading cause of blindness for the elderly in the United States.
What Causes Macular Degeneration?
Macular Degeneration is caused by deposits of accumulated extracellular material that builds up between Bruch’s membrane and the Retinal Pigment Epithelium of the retina. These deposits are yellow or white in color and they are called drusen. Most people over 40 will have some hard drusen. A healthy eye can even have a few small drusen which should be monitored closely for changes. When the deposits become larger, both in size and number, it is a sign of development of the dry form of age-related macular degeneration.
Dry AMD may advance to the wet form in some cases. The wet form of AMD is caused by the abnormal growth of blood vessels under the retina. These vessels develop due to vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). VEGF is a signal protein produced by cells stimulating vasculogenesis and angiogenesis. VEGF’s normal function is to create new blood vessels during embryonic development, after an injury or in various other scenarios. Overexpression of VEGF is what causes the wet form of macular degeneration.
Common Symptoms of Retinal Diseases
If you experience any changes in your vision, it is important to seek care from an ophthalmologist. Some common signs and symptoms that indicate problems with the retina include:
● Suddenly seeing floating specks, cobwebs, or flashing lights
● Blurred or distorted vision
● A curtain or veil obscuring your vision
● Lost vision
The “dry” form of macular degeneration occurs when the macula contains drusen only. Symptoms of Dry AMD are typically more mild in nature. It advances much more slowly and any vision loss is typically much less severe than in wet macular degeneration.
Symptoms of Dry Macular Degeneration include:
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