Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a common chronic eye disease that affects over one million people in Canada. Also referred to as AMD (age-related macular degeneration), the disease often develops with age and causes the middle portion of the retina to decline. If left untreated, AMD can sometimes lead to permanent blindness or cause serious vision damage. This article discusses risk factors, macular degeneration symptoms, macular degeneration tests that can be done to detect the condition in its early stages, and the prognosis for AMD.

There are two types of Macular Degeneration:

Dry Macular Degeneration - This is the most common type of macular degeneration, and it encompasses over 90% of cases. Scientists are uncertain what causes dry macular degeneration, although it is likely related to nutritional and environmental factors.

Wet Macular Degeneration - Wet macular degeneration is more severe, and tends to occur following dry AMD. It is indicated by fluid buildup in the back of the eye, or by abnormal blood vessel growth in the eye.

Risk Factors for Macular Degeneration

Smokers pose a higher risk of developing macular degeneration, as do people with obesity and high cholesterol. An unhealthy diet high in processed foods and low in vegetables can also contribute to the condition.

People over the age of 60 are more likely to develop age related macular degeneration than people in other age groups. Also, people with a family history of macular degeneration are at higher risk of contracting the disease than others. Risk factors for macular degeneration include:

  • Age (commonly in older individuals)
  • Genetics
  • Race (most commonly in caucasians)
  • Gender (more commonly in females)
  • Obesity
  • Exposure to UV light (such as sunlight)
  • Nutrient deficiencies (primarily zinc, copper, and Vitamins A, C, and E)
  • Smoking
  • Cardiovascular diseases
Macular degeneration can make the smallest tasks such as watching TV, recognizing faces and driving difficult. As the disease causes the central part of the eye to degenerate, patients will notice that only the central part of their vision is affected while peripheral vision remains the same.

Macular Degeneration Symptoms

The condition can appear in one or both eyes. Often, the first symptom of macular degeneration is to notice an unclear/blurry section in the center of your field of vision. As this distortion in vision continues, macular degeneration causes objects to appear smaller than usual and make straight lines appear rippled. Other macular degeneration symptoms include:

  • Poor adaptation to low light environments
  • Printed words appearing blurry
  • Colours appearing dull
  • Impaired facial recognition
  • Haziness
  • Blind spots or blurry spots in the centre of your field of view
  • Visual distortions, such as straight lines appearing wavy or crooked

Macular Degeneration Tests

There are several macular degeneration tests to diagnose the condition. A visual acuity test can calculate your ability to see from a distance. Our eye doctors examine your retina for signs of AMD. The Amsler Grid [c]is another non-invasive macular degeneration test that can pick up AMD symptoms. Your eye doctor also may consider an Optical Coherence Tomography.

MTreatments for Macular Degeneration

Treatment for AMD depends on the type of macular degeneration you have.

Dry macular degeneration cannot yet be cured, but usually tends to develop very slowly. People with dry macular degeneration still maintain their peripheral vision. Our eye doctors can provide counsel to help individuals with dry macular degeneration. Vitamin combinations are approved for use.

Wet macular degeneration can be treated on an outpatient basis. These treatments can improve vision and prevent further damage. The type of treatment prescribed depends on the type of macular degeneration. These are seen by retinal sub specialty ophthalmology.


Tel: 416.922.2020
Fax: 416.922.1932

Drs. Fresco and Simon

27 Alvin Avenue

Toronto, ON

M4T 2A7