By Lylas G. Mogk, M.D., Edited by Sefy Paulose, M.D. March, 2022
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the developed world in people over 50 years old. It is estimated that among North Americans, 11 million currently have ”dry” AMD and 1.5 million people have “wet” AMD. AMD is the deterioration of the macula, which is a small area in the center of the retina that allows us to see details. The retina, the structure of the back of the inner eye, is like a camera in that it records what we see. However, the retina is different from a general film, as it has one specific area that allows the picture to come out perfectly clear. That area is the center point of the retina which is called the macula.
Damage to the macula affects our detail vision and reduces the clarity of objects that we look at directly. This is the vision we use to read, drive, see the television, and do detailed work such as threading a needle, sewing, or crafts.
It also reduces contrast sensitivity – our ability to see objects that are the same tone as their background – so identifying faces and seeing curbs and steps may be difficult. Our peripheral vision, the wide area that includes everything that we are not looking directly at, remains intact so individuals with age-related macular degeneration can see all around the room, for example.