What Is Macular Telangiectasia? – WebMD

Macular telangiectasia (sometimes called idiopathic juxtafoveal telangiectasis or MacTel) is a disease that affects the macula. That’s the part of your eye that allows you to see things directly in front of you.
When you have it, tiny blood vessels around your fovea (the center of your macula) become swollen and enlarged. This leads to a loss of sharp central vision. You need central vision to do important tasks like reading, writing, driving, and seeing other people’s faces.
The most common form of macular telangiectasia was first identified in 1977. Experts estimate about 2 million people worldwide have it.
Though it rarely leads to blindness, macular telangiectasia can be difficult to treat. Research is underway to better understand it, find its causes, and uncover new treatments.
Early on, people with the condition may not notice any issues. But as the disease advances, symptoms may include:
Macular telangiectasia doesn’t affect your side vision.
It’s sometimes confused with another, more common condition called macular degeneration. Though they can cause similar symptoms, macular telangiectasia is not the same as macular degeneration.
“Telangiectasia” refers to the dilation, or widening, of small blood vessels. The various forms of macular telangiectasia affect the blood vessels in your eyes in different ways. The two main types are:
There’s also a macular telangiectasia type 3, but it’s extremely uncommon and not well understood. It can lead to blocked blood vessels in your eyes.
Scientists don’t know exactly what causes the condition, but research has provided possible explanations.
Some studies suggest it may occur because of a poor connection between certain types of cells in your retina, the thin layer of light-sensing tissue in the back of your eye that houses the macula.
Researchers have found more than a dozen gene variants linked to MacTel type 2, suggesting a strong genetic link.
Here are some risk factors to be aware of:
A doctor who specializes in vision care, such as an optometrist or an ophthalmologist, can look for signs of the condition during a thorough eye exam. They might notice:
If your doctor suspects you have macular telangiectasia, these tests may help confirm a diagnosis:
Researchers haven’t yet discovered a therapy that can significantly improve vision in people with macular telangiectasia. Often, the condition isn’t serious enough to require treatment. Your doctor will simply monitor you.
In some cases, doctors will recommend:
Certain resources, aids, and devices can help people with vision loss better manage daily activities.
Low vision rehabilitation therapy teaches people ways to stay independent and live better with vision loss. A vision rehab program might also provide counseling, education, and support.
Some examples of low vision devices and aids include:
Macular telangiectasia type 2 usually starts to develop in middle-aged people and gets gradually worse over 10-20 years. Researchers estimate that about half of people with this condition will have eyesight of 20/32 or better.
Type 1 is most often diagnosed around age 40. You can have it for years with no symptoms. Like type 2, it often has a good outlook. And it almost always affects just one eye.
When it comes to macular telangiectasia, there’s still a lot doctors don’t understand. That’s why scientists have launched the MacTel Project – an international research effort that aims to uncover new clues about type 2 macular telangiectasia.
The project intends to promote awareness, provide support, and identify possible causes and effective treatments.
American Society of Retina Specialists: “Idiopathic Juxtafoveal Telangiectasis.”
American Academy of Ophthalmology: “What Is Macular Telangiectasia?” “Low Vision Assistive Devices.”
Macular Disease Foundation Australia: “What is macular telangiectasia (MacTel)?”
Cleveland Clinic: “Macula,” “Retina.”
Optometrists Network: “Macular Diseases.”
NewYork-Presbyterian: “Central Vision.”
Lowy Medical Research Institute: “The MacTel Project,” “Diagnosing MacTel.”
Nature Metabolism: “Serine biosynthesis defect due to haploinsufficiency of PHGDH causes retinal disease.
American Academy of Ophthalmology: EyeWiki: “Coats Disease,” “Macular Telangiectasia.”
Orpha.net: “Idiopathic macular telangiectasia type 3.”
JAMA Ophthalmology: “Idiopathic Macular Telangiectasia.”
Prevent Blindness: “What is Low Vision Rehabilitation?”
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