- Pigmentary alterations
- Exudative changes: hemorrhages in the eye, hard exudates, subretinal/sub-RPE/intraretinal fluid
- Atrophy: incipient and geographic
- Visual acuity drastically decreasing (two levels or more) ex: 20/20 to 20/80.
- Preferential hyperacuity perimetry changes (for wet AMD)
- Blurred vision: Those with nonexudative macular degeneration may be asymptomatic or notice a gradual loss of central vision, whereas those with exudative macular degeneration often notice a rapid onset of vision loss.
- Central scotomas (shadows or missing areas of vision)
- Distorted vision (i.e. ''metamorphopsia'') - A grid of straight lines appears wavy and parts of the grid may appear blank. Patients often first notice this when looking at mini-blinds in their home.
- Trouble discerning colors; specifically dark ones from dark ones and light ones from light ones.
- Slow recovery of visual function after exposure to bright light
- A loss in contrast sensitivity.
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 about 5% of the retina and is responsible for about 35% of the visual field. The remaining 65% (the peripheral field) remains unaffected by the disease.
The loss of central vision profoundly affects visual functioning. It is not possible, for example, to read without central vision. Pictures that attempt to depict the central visual loss of macular degeneration with a black spot do not really do justice to the devastating nature of the visual loss. This can be demonstrated by printing letters 6 inches high on a piece of paper and attempting to identify them while looking straight ahead and holding the paper slightly to the side. Most people find this difficult to do.
There is a loss of contrast sensitivity, so that contours, shadows, and color vision are less vivid. The loss in contrast sensitivity can be quickly and easily measured by a contrast sensitivity test performed either at home or by an eye specialist.
Similar symptoms with a very different etiology and different treatment can be caused by Epiretinal membrane or macular pucker or leaking blood vessels in the eye.
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