Henry Smith and Hamylton, Opticians since 1887

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What is THE macula?

The macula is located roughly in the center of the retina, temporal to the optic nerve. It is a small and highly sensitive part of the retina responsible for detailed central vision. The fovea is the very center of the macula. The macula allows us to appreciate detail and perform tasks that require central vision such reading and writing.

What is macular degeneration?

Age related macular degeneration is a medical condition which usually affects older adults that results in a loss of vision in the centre of the visual field (the macula) because of damage to the retina. It occurs in "dry" and "wet" forms. It is a major cause of visual impairment in older adults.

Age-related macular degeneration begins with characteristic yellow deposits in the macula (central area of the retina, which provides detailed central vision, called the fovea) called drusen between the retinal pigment epithelium and the underlying choroid. Most people with these early changes (referred to as age-related maculopathy) have good vision. People with drusen can go on to develop advanced AMD.

Macular degeneration by itself will not lead to total blindness. For that matter, only a very small number of people with visual impairment are totally blind. In almost all cases, some vision remains. Other complicating conditions may possibly lead to such an acute condition (severe stroke or trauma, untreated glaucoma, etc.), but few macular degeneration patients experience total visual loss. The area of the macula comprises only about 2.1% of the retina, and the remaining 97.9% (the peripheral field) remains unaffected by the disease. Interestingly, even though the macula provides such a small fraction of the visual field, almost half of the visual cortex is devoted to processing macular information.

Macular degeneration can be treated with laser coagulation, and with medication that stops and sometimes reverses the growth of blood vessels.