Macular degeneration is a disease characterized by a malfunction of cells that are responsible for sensing light within the eye. Macular degeneration is the most common cause of central vision loss in individuals older than 50 years old. In fact, macular degeneration is usually referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). People over 75 have a 30% chance of getting AMD. Other variables may influence an individual's risk of having macular degeneration, such as smoking, hypertension (high blood pressure), sunlight exposure, race, cholesterol, obesity, and family history. In fact, individuals who have a family member with macular degeneration have a 50% chance of being affected by the disease, versus a 12% chance in the general population. Race seems to be a factor as well, because Caucasians have macular degeneration more often than people of African descent.
Symptoms of macular degeneration are blurriness, darkness of haziness of vision, and inability to see fine detail. Treatment options usually include medication, laser treatments, or implantation of a telescopic lens in one eye. Some medications can not only halt the progression of macular degeneration, but can help reverse some of the effects of the disease.
Many people with macular degeneration are able to live relatively normal lives, especially if only one eye is affected. However, when both eyes are severely affected, a patient may not be able to see enough to drive or do fine detailed work. If you can't work, you can apply for Social Security disability benefits. However, the Social Security Administration doesn't grant disability benefits based on a diagnosis of macular degeneration, but on how poor your central acuity or peripheral vision is, and how your vision limits your abilities. For more information, read our article on disability benefits for vision loss.