Hettiger Eye Care Center

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Macular Degeneration


Macular Degeneration is a condition in which the tissue of the macula, (a portion of the retina responsible for visual clarity), becomes thin. It is believed to be a natural part of the aging process. Aging, or systemic disease, causes the breakdown of retinal pigment epithelium cells in the macular region. As the disease progresses, central vision diminishes. It is believed that this breakdown may be due to a lack of nutrients being supplied to the region. Additional studies have found a genetic link to this disease.

Symptoms may include a gradual loss of visual clarity, a dark or blank area in your field of vision, a loss of clear color vision, or visual distortion.

Treatment includes prescribing low-vision aids to help with the loss or degeneration of central vision. Unfortunately, there is presently no way to restore vision lost due to age-related macular degeneration. Diets rich in green leafy vegetables may aid in slowing down the progression of the disease.

Dry Macular Degeneration (Non-neovascular)

Dry macular degeneration is characterized by tiny yellowish deposits under the macular region. These deposits, (exudates), may increase in number and size over time. Small clumps of brown pigment from the degenerating RPE layer are also commonly seen. As this form of the disease progresses, retinal layers of RPE are destroyed, and vision in the macular region gradually decreases.

Wet Macular Degeneration (Neovascular)

Wet macular degeneration is associated with more sudden loss of vision. This form of degeneration is characterized by macular hemorrhaging, due to leakage or bleeding from abnormal vessels under the macular. Vision loss can be rapid, due to the disruption of blood flow to the layers of the macula themselves. Eventually, these areas of blood and fluid accumulation may develop into a dense mass of scar tissue beneath the macular region.


The most common symptom of macular degeneration is blurred central vision; noticeably worse when reading. In addition, horizontal lines may appear wavy and/or distorted. The most common method of detecting macular changes is the Amsler Grid test. During an eye examination, you are asked to look at the grid's center dot and asked if you notice any wavy, distorted, missing, or broken lines on the grid. Any one of these irregularities may indicate changes within the macular region of the eye. Your ophthalmologist or optometrist will be able to confirm any suspicions of macular degeneration during a dilated retinal examination.

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