Macular degeneration usually develops only gradually, over many years. A Consultant Ophthalmologist examining the retina will see the early signs – small deposits of waste material (drusen), clumps of pigment or small areas where the retina has worn thin. These changes are referred to as “dry” macular degeneration. Small areas sometimes merge to become a larger area.
Some eyes with dry ARMD develop a lacework of tiny blood vessels (known as a neovascular membrane) beneath the macula, which can suddenly leak or bleed. The resulting damage to the retina forms a scar and if bleeding or fluid leakage are extensive, profound loss of central vision may ensue. This is referred to as “wet” macular degeneration. An older person who experiences rapid deterioration, distortion or darkening of the central vision should see an Ophthalmologist promptly. If detected early, new treatments are available that may contain the extent of the damage or promote improvement.