Macular degeneration is caused by damage to the macula, a small area in the center of the retina at the back of the eye essential to central vision. A blurred area or blank spot in the center of the line of sight grows as macular degeneration develops.

Symptoms may progress slowly over time or quickly, and can occur in one or both eyes.

Macular degeneration affects more than 10 million Americans and currently has no cure. Age is the main risk factor, with those over 55 at highest risk, though younger people may also develop a form of the disease.



The first sign of macular degeneration is reduced sharpness in the center of your vision. Blurred or blank spots in your “straight ahead” vision may increase in size and severity over time. Side or peripheral vision is not typically affected.

While macular degeneration does not lead to total blindness, the loss of central vision can greatly interfere with activities that require sight — including reading, driving, and even recognizing faces — and diminish quality of life.

If you are experiencing cloudy, blurry, or dark areas in your central vision, call 1-800-BRAILLE for a free consultation. All of our programs and services are free.



The macula is filled with millions of light-sensing cells and provides sharp, central vision. When the area is damaged or deteriorates, the central vision becomes cloudy or dark.

With “dry” macular degeneration — the most prominent type — small yellow deposits, known as drusen, form under the macula, causing it to dry out, become thinner and lose function. In the rarer form of “wet” macular degeneration, abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula and may bleed and leak fluid, distorting central vision as the area bulges.

Macular degeneration’s underlying causes are not well understood. A combination of genetics and environment plays a role, but aging is the leading risk factor.

You are at higher risk of macular degeneration if:

  • Someone in your family developed macular degeneration
  • You are of Caucasian descent; African-Americans and Latinos are at lower risk
  • You smoke, which doubles your risk

Stargardt disease, also called juvenile macular degeneration, is a genetic condition that causes macular degeneration in childhood or young adulthood.



No cure has yet been found for macular degeneration, and this type of vision loss is not correctable with glasses or surgery.

If you’ve been diagnosed with macular degeneration, or are at high risk, you may be able to slow progression of disease through lifestyle changes, a healthy diet, exercising regularly, protecting your eyes from ultraviolet light when outdoors, and not smoking.



Losing vision doesn’t mean giving up on your life activities, it just means learning new ways to do them.

Braille Institute’s FREE Low Vision Rehabilitation Service includes personalized one-on-one appointments with Low Vision Specialists that will work with you to maximize your remaining vision by:

  • Assessing your particular needs
  • Providing practical tips on lighting, contrast enhancement and glare control
  • Exploring devices that can help you accomplish everyday tasks like reading, watching TV, and more

In addition to appointments with Low Vision Specialists, Braille Institute’s regional centers offer a variety of programs and services for the blind and visually impaired including Independent Living Skills classes, Orientation & Mobility training, one-on-one technology classes, audio and braille books, and much more.

To learn more or to schedule a FREE one-on-one appointment with one of our Low Vision Specialists, call 1-800-BRAILLE (272-4553).