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Macular degeneration damages and destroys the central vision of up to one in three Americans in their lifetime and has no known cause or cure. It can affect anyone, regardless of age, sex or nationality.

What Does Macular Degeneration Look Like?

Victims of MD may experience one or more of the following symptoms:


Normal Vision


Blurring & Dim Colors in Central Vision


Straight Lines Look Distorted

The Healthy Eye

Link: Anatomy of the Eye (opens new window)


A Dark or Empty Area in Central Vision

The central zone of the retina where the most critical vision is enabled is called the macula


Cross-section of an eye indicating location of a healthy macula





Bruch’s Membrane


Retina receives nutrients and oxygen via pumps contained in the RPE (Retinal Pigment Epithelium)

Retina disposes of waste material & fluids

Cross Section of the Macula with the Dry Form of MD

Dry Macular Degeneration


With age in certain people the blood vessels supplying the macula and Bruch's membrane harden.

Transport of vital oxygen into, and waste materials/fluids out becomes more difficult. Old cells in the RPE are less easily disposed of leading to accumulation of broken down material that contributes to drusen.

As drusen continues to accumulate, the RPE cells are lifted further and further away from their blood supply, progressively impairing the transport of vital substances to the macular area of the retina. This causes the central point of the retina (macula/fovea) to bow upwards causing loss and distortion of vision.

Development of the Subfoveal (Central Starting) Wet Form of MD

Ten percent of people with dry MD will go on to develop the wet form of the disease that is associated with blood vessel leakage and bleeding causing the most severe vision loss. The process unfolds as follows:



© 2008 Macular Degeneration Foundation

Designed by Keith Colgan

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