Macular Degeneration (MD) damages the part of the retina responsible for central vision and for seeing fine detail, it becomes difficult to see small details of objects. Vision to the sides is not affected. If both eyes are affected, reading and other tasks requiring fine vision may become very difficult, however because some side vision remains, people with Macular Degeneration can usually take care of themselves.
Macular Degeneration is the result of ageing processes in the eye. Some of the layers of the retina thicken and waste material which is usually removed from the retina forms deposits, distorting the retina. This distortion can cause damage to the other layers of the retina. In about 10 per cent of cases, new blood vessels grow into the macula from beneath. These newly-formed vessels are fragile and often leak blood into the retina where the blood causes scar tissue to form. The scarring blocks out central vision to a severe degree. There are also some other forms of macular degeneration which are inherited and not associated with ageing.
Macular Degeneration mainly affects older people: about four per cent of those more than 40 years old, nine per cent of those over 50 years, 23 per cent of those over 65 years and 31 per cent of those aged 80 years or more. Men and women are equally affected. MD accounts for up to 45 per cent of legal blindness and up to 70 per cent of seriously impaired vision in people over the age of 70 years.