The macula of the eye is the portion of the retina that allows a person to focus on the fine details, such as reading, writing and pinpoint focus. It's the central portion of the retina and is most often what's affected by disease and degeneration. Macular degeneration is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina. Macular edema is the result of inflammation and swelling in the area. Any type of macular disease can result in permanent vision loss if left untreated. Blurred vision, floaters and wavy lines are all indicators that some form of deterioration has occurred.
Doctors don't know what causes the macula to deteriorate. They do, however, understand that as a person ages, the macula begins to deteriorate. Macular degeneration continues as the person ages, causing difficulties when trying to see things that are extremely close or highly detailed. While age can speed up the deterioration of the tissues, doctors do believe that factors such as smoking, genetics, obesity and cardiovascular disease can also play a role. There are two types of macular degeneration, the "dry" form is the most common and is characterized by blurred and distorted vision. "Wet" macular degeneration is caused by leaking blood vessels that form behind the retina.
When the macula portion of the retina becomes damaged, either through aging or disease, total blindness normally doesn't occur. Macular disease normally only affects the central portion of a person's vision, leaving the peripheral, or side vision, intact. Low vision rehabilitation is the most common form of treatment. Occupational therapists and individuals who have received extensive training in low vision rehabilitation are often able to help a person adapt to the changes in vision. Small telescopic lenses may also be surgically implanted in the eye to restore most of the person's vision, or at least part of it.