Macular degeneration is also known as age-related maculopathy. The macula (the most active part of the retina, responsibly for precise vision, reading, etc) is affected and the cells of the macula become damaged and stop working. Central vision becomes blurred or distorted, and as the disease progresses, reading, writing, seeing small objects and recognising faces becomes difficult.
Many people over the age of 70 have some form of macular degeneration. If there is a family history of macular degeneration, there may also be an increased risk. People with some medical conditions, i.e. diabetes, may also be more likely to develop macular degeneration. Smoking is a known risk factor for macular degeneration.
Macular degeneration is not a painful condition and does not lead to total blindness, as side vision or peripheral vision is still maintained. For many cases of macular degeneration no treatment is possible, although laser treatment may be an option in some cases. Spectacles or other visual aids may be useful to help with reading. A diet that is rich in leafy green vegetables is thought to help maintain macular health.