What Are the Early Symptoms of Macular Degeneration?

In the human eye, the macula is a part of the retina and is responsible for sharpening and refining visual images perceived by the eye. Macular degeneration, which is also called age-related macular degeneration, is an eye condition that occurs when the blood vessels that deliver blood to the macula become damaged. The two forms of macular degeneration–wet and dry–can yield distinct symptoms in patients during the early stages of this disease.

Blurred Vision

Dry macular degeneration is the most common form of this condition and occurs when cells within the macula begin to break down. When these cells degrade, vision within the affected eye slowly begins to become cloudy or blurry. You may notice that you have difficulty reading or seeing objects at night or in low light. If you have dry macular degeneration, you may also experience difficulty recognizing friends or family members because your eyes are unable to distinguish specific facial features, warn health officials at the National Eye Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health. Patients with this form of macular degeneration typically experience symptoms in both eyes, though the severity of symptoms can differ in each eye.

Distorted Vision

Wet macular degeneration occurs when blood vessels abnormally grow beneath the macula and leak fluid or blood into the eye. Estimates provided by Medline Plus, an online medical encyclopedia established by the National Institutes of Health, indicate that only 10 percent of patients with macular degeneration have the wet form of this disease. The most common early symptom of wet macular degeneration is the visual distortion of straight lines, which appear crooked, curved or wavy if you have this disease.

Decreased Central Vision

Both dry and wet macular degeneration can lead to decreased vision within your center field of vision. You can notice a dark spot in your central vision that becomes progressively larger as the disease worsens. These symptoms tend to arise gradually in patients with dry macular degeneration but can occur rapidly in patients with wet macular degeneration, explains Medline Plus. If you have this disease, you can develop decreased vision in either one or both eyes.

About this Author

Rachel R. Ahmed, M.S., is a freelance writer and editor based in San Diego. Ahmed received her M.S. degree in integrated biomedical sciences and has been working as a freelance writer and editor for more than five years. Some of her freelance clients include The Burroughs Wellcome Fund, alzforum.org, MedAngel.org, L3 Communications, and ThinkTank Learning.