Mrs. Cox is 78. A widow, she lives alone and has enjoyed relatively good health. Other than some farsightedness, her eyes were never a problem until last May. One morning, she woke up and something was wrong.

“I couldn’t see well,” she reported. “When I looked through my right eye, I could see. But when I looked through my left eye, there was a dark blot I couldn’t see through.” A friend took her to a local physician, who diagnosed her with macular degeneration.

Learning About Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in older people. Macular degeneration does not cause complete blindness. Instead, people with it lose their central vision. When they look directly at something, their sight lacks detail, is blurry, or can be blotted out. However, peripheral vision is not lost.  

Macular degeneration is caused by a problem with the retina. The retina is the inner back surface of the eyeball. It converts light into messages that are sent to the brain. Then, the brain turns these messages into the experience of sight. 

With macular degeneration, something goes wrong with the most important part of the retina. This area is called the macula, and it is the central part of the retina. The macula does the best job of seeing fine detail and color. If it does not work, a person loses the ability to see colors, tell faces apart, read, and possibly to drive.

For older people, there are two main forms of macular degeneration.  

  • Most people have the ”dry” form. “Dry” macular degeneration happens when the macula loses blood circulation. When this happens, cells in the macula die, which leads to vision problems.  
  • Mrs. Cox has the “wet” form, which is more rare and usually more severe. In the “wet” form, abnormal blood vessels at the back of the eyeball leak, causing damage to the macula. The macula begins to form a scar, which causes eyesight to deteriorate.

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