"The macula is the center of the retina. And it's located right in the center of the eye," explains ophthalmologist Dr. Carmelina Gordon of TLC Eyecare & Laser Centers.
It's the portion of the eye that allows people to see 20-20, a spot that can deteriorate with age in what's called Macular Degeneration.
"The most common symptoms in the early stages are diffifculty recognizing faces, difficulty with vision."
Age related macular degeneration has two forms: wet and dry. Dry occurs when cells in the macula break down.
"Fortunately with the dry form, the patient will probably lose their central vision at a slow rate, probably about one percent a year."
Ophthalmologist Dr. Raphael Addiego of Lansing Ophthalmology says, "The wet kind involves leakage underneath the retina. So you can imagine this flat film like a camera film sitting against the tissues of the back of the eye. And if it starts to blister up with a fluid bubble underneath from an abnormal blood vessel growth that leaks underneath the retina. "
According to the National Eye Institute more than 57,000 Michiganders are affected by the wet form, and 90 percent will severly lose their vision as a result.
"As the patient gets older the condition also worsens," says Dr. Gordon.
But there are medicines to help stop the degeneration.
"It does involve injections into the eye and they are generally done on a repeated schedule. It offers most people the opportunity to have much better vision than they would have had and many keep people keep fairly good vision," says Dr. Addiego.
After genetics, smoking is the leading risk factor for AMD. Doctors recommend those 50 and older get a dilated eye exam yearly.