Symptoms and causes

Symptoms

Wet macular degeneration symptoms usually appear suddenly and worsen rapidly. They may include:

  • Visual distortions, such as straight lines seeming bent
  • Reduced central vision in one or both eyes
  • Decreased intensity or brightness of colors
  • A well-defined blurry spot or blind spot in your field of vision
  • A general haziness in your overall vision
  • Abrupt onset and rapid worsening of symptoms

Macular degeneration doesn't affect side (peripheral) vision, so it rarely causes total blindness.

When to see a doctor

See your eye doctor if:

  • You notice changes in your central vision
  • Your ability to see colors and fine detail becomes impaired

These changes may be the first indication of macular degeneration, particularly if you're older than age 50.

Causes

No one knows the exact cause of wet macular degeneration, but it develops in people who have had dry macular degeneration. Of all people with age-related macular degeneration, about 10 percent have the wet form.

Wet macular degeneration can develop in different ways:

  • Vision loss caused by abnormal blood vessel growth. Sometimes abnormal new blood vessels grow from the choroid under and into the macula (choroidal neovascularization). The choroid is the layer of blood vessels between the retina and the outer, firm coat of the eye (sclera). These abnormal blood vessels may leak fluid or blood, interfering with the retina's function.
  • Vision loss caused by fluid buildup in the back of the eye. When fluid leaks from the choroid, it can collect between the choroid and a thin cell layer called the retinal pigment epithelium. This may cause a bump in the macula, resulting in vision loss.

Risk factors

Factors that may increase your risk of macular degeneration include:

  • Age. This disease is most common in people over 65.
  • Family history. This disease has a hereditary component. Researchers have identified several genes related to developing the condition.
  • Smoking. Smoking cigarettes or being regularly exposed to smoke significantly increases your risk of macular degeneration.
  • Obesity. Research indicates that being obese increases the chance that early or intermediate macular degeneration will progress to a more severe form of the disease.
  • Cardiovascular disease. If you have diseases that affect your heart and blood vessels, you may be at higher risk of macular degeneration.

Complications

People whose wet macular degeneration has progressed to central vision loss may experience depression or visual hallucinations (Charles Bonnet syndrome).

Dec. 24, 2015
References
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