As you age, numerous eye conditions can affect your ability to see clearly. Some, like macular degeneration, can sneak up on you with mild and barely noticeable symptoms that gradually progress to cause vision loss. This serious vision disorder affects about 10 million people in the U.S. and is the leading cause of loss of vision for people 55 and older. To learn 10 vital facts about macular degeneration, read on.

1. Macular refers to the macula of the eye, which is located at the center of the retina. The macula allows for straight-ahead, clear vision, vital for tasks such as reading.

2. The early stages of macular degeneration often show no symptoms, but may be detected with an eye exam. Initial symptoms can be mild, such as slight distortions while viewing straight lines.

3. The first obvious and noticeable symptoms are the appearance of a blank, blurry or white area in the center of your vision. Colors may begin to look distorted and your total field of vision becomes slightly blurry.

4. Smoking and a family history of macular degeneration are risk factors for this disease. Other possible factors include high blood pressure, high levels of exposure to sunlight and lighter eye colors (green, hazel, blue).

5. The appearance of enlarged drusen, which are yellow deposits, are red flags and will be checked by your ophthalmologist during an eye exam.

6. You can have macular degeneration in only one eye or both, and the disease can be in different stages in each eye. If you have it in one eye, you are at an increased risk for the other eye.

7. Coping with low vision caused by macular degeneration may be accomplished with the use of highly magnified reading glasses, magnified LED-lighted lamps, large print reading materials, talking watches, clocks and calculators and magnifiers for tv and computer screens.

8. According to the National Eye Institute, the progression of this disease in those with advanced cases may be slowed by taking vitamins C, E, zinc, copper and beta caroten. There are commercially available over-the-counter supplements that combine these ingredients in a single pill for daily use.

9. At this time there is no cure for macular degeneration, however injections, laser surgery and photo-dynamic therapy may be useful for the advanced stages of the disease.

10. The insertion of a tiny telescope to magnify the field of vision is being done on an experimental basis.

Slowing the progression of this vision-robbing disease is vital, so see your ophthalmologist as soon as possible so that you can work together to keep your vision as long as possible. You can also visit to learn more.