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Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss. It is a condition in which the center of the retina deteriorates over time. The center of the retina is called the macular, hence the term macular degeneration. The macula is responsible for much of your vision, and when it breaks down, it can cause many symptoms. Macular degeneration occurs in three stages. Here are the symptoms broken down by stage:

Symptoms of Early Macular Degeneration

Early macular degeneration usually has no symptoms or noticeable vision loss. Your eye doctor will be the first to notice something wrong by examining your retina and macula. If you have early macular degeneration, your eye doctor will see what are called drusen. Drusen are yellowish spots that form on the macula. The spots are caused by the deterioration of tissue.

If symptoms are noticed during this early stage, they include:

  • Shadows in central vision
  • Fuzzy or distorted vision
  • Distortion of straight lines
  • An Amsler grid appears to have wavy or blurred lines.
  • There may be dark areas in the center of the grid.

Symptoms of Intermediate Macular Degeneration

Some people with macular degeneration will begin to notice symptoms in this stage:

  • Vision may become blurry
  • There can also be vision loss
  • Drusen become larger, and the retina begins to change color

Like early macular degeneration, your eye doctor will likely be the first one to detect a problem. Symptoms will be similar to that of early macular degeneration but slightly worsened.

Symptoms of Late Macular Degeneration

Most people with macular degeneration notice symptoms at this stage. Vision loss is noticeable, and there are many other signs. Here are the symptoms of late-stage macular degeneration:

  • Large drusen
  • Vision loss
  • Swelling of macula
  • Central vision blind spots
  • Reduced seeing distance, especially for reading
  • Needing more or brighter light to see
  • Trouble seeing when moving from a bright to a dark room
  • Trouble recognizing faces or objects
  • Objects appear smaller or larger than usual
  • Loss of ability to distinguish colors
  • Trouble determining changes in small details, like texture. For example, you may not be able to tell the difference between a rough or smooth stone.
  • Depth perception changes leading to falls, trips, bumps, or other injuries
  • If vision loss is severe, visual hallucinations
  • Increased sensitivity to glare and sunlight, especially when watching TV or driving
    Trouble following straight lines while walking, driving, or doing other activities like sewing or mowing the yard

These are the symptoms of macular degeneration. If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or others, contact an eye doctor right away for an appointment. Also, even if you don’t have symptoms, make an appointment for a complete eye exam so an eye care professional can look for signs of eye disease.