What is age-related macular degeneration?

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): Overview

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease. It can happen to people as they get older.

AMD damages a part of your eye called the macula. The macula is the center part of your retina. It gives you clear vision so you can focus on what is in front of you.

With AMD, your vision may be fuzzy. Straight lines may look curvy. You may also have a dark spot in the center of your field of vision. Over time, you may lose more of your front vision.

Your doctor may give you a special chart called an Amsler grid to check your vision. If you use it regularly, you can watch for changes in your vision.

When changes are found early, treatments can help prevent more vision loss. These may include therapy, surgery, or medicine.

Your doctor may suggest a vitamin and mineral supplement to help slow the disease.

Age-related macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration is an eye disease that causes blurry vision and makes it hard to read, drive, and see pictures or faces. It happens because of damage to the macula, the part of the eye that helps you see the fine detail in things that are in front of you.

There are two types of macular degeneration: wet and dry.

  • In the dry form, central vision grows dimmer or more blurry as the disease progresses.
  • In the wet form, symptoms appear suddenly, get worse rapidly, and often lead to severe central vision loss.

The wet form is much less common, but it is more sudden and severe.

What happens when you have age-related macular degeneration (AMD)?

Vision changes can happen slowly or quickly, depending on the type of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) that you have. If you have dry AMD, it could be several years before changes affect your ability to read or drive. If you have wet AMD, vision changes are more sudden and severe.

What are the symptoms of age-related macular degeneration (AMD)?

AMD can cause these symptoms:

  • Central vision becomes dim, fuzzy, or less sharp. This is the main symptom of macular degeneration.
  • Straight lines begin to appear wavy or curved. This is usually the first symptom of wet AMD.
  • Objects appear warped, distorted, or smaller than they really are.
  • A new blank or blind spot develops in your central field of vision.
  • Reading requires more light than it did in the past.
  • You find it harder to see people's faces clearly.
  • You have a loss of central vision that doesn't go away or becomes worse over time.

Dry AMD happens slowly. Vision changes may be so gradual that you don't notice them. You may have it for several years before it affects your ability to read, drive, and do everyday activities.

Wet AMD happens suddenly. Symptoms tend to appear suddenly and get worse fast.

How is age-related macular degeneration (AMD) treated?

There is no cure for AMD. But certain treatments may delay vision loss.

Your doctor can refer you to professionals who help people adjust to living with low vision.

For dry AMD, follow your doctor's advice for having regular exams and watching the condition at home, because dry AMD can sometimes develop into wet AMD. Certain vitamin and mineral supplements may help slow vision loss. Check with your doctor before taking any supplements. Some can have harmful side effects.

Treatment for wet AMD can sometimes delay further damage to your central vision. But in most cases, wet AMD starts again. The main treatment for wet AMD is a medicine that is injected into your eye. Sometimes other treatments may be recommended.

Because wet AMD often causes rapid and severe loss of central vision, it is important not to delay treatment if your doctor recommends it.

Lowering your risk of getting age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

You can't prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD). But there are some steps you can take that may lower your risk of getting it.

  • Have regular eye exams.

    Eye exams may help you find out if you are at risk for AMD or, if you have AMD, may detect it early. Early detection can sometimes delay loss of vision.

  • Don't smoke.

    People who smoke are more likely to develop AMD than those who don't smoke. Even after you stop smoking, this increased risk may persist for many years.

  • Get regular exercise, and stay at a healthy weight.

    These choices may lower your risk of getting AMD.

People who have an increased risk for AMD should use the Amsler grid. Your doctor can give you one to use at home.

How is age-related macular degeneration (AMD) diagnosed?

A doctor can usually detect AMD by doing a regular eye exam. The doctor will ask about your symptoms, past eye problems, and other health conditions. You may have some vision tests, including an ophthalmoscopy, visual acuity test, or Amsler grid test. These tests let your doctor check for signs of the disease.

How are medicines used to treat wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD)?

Anti-VEGF medicines, such as aflibercept (Eylea), bevacizumab (Avastin) and ranibizumab (Lucentis), can slow the vision loss that is linked to wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD). In some people, these medicines may improve vision. These medicines are injected into the eye.

Who can diagnose and treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD)?

AMD is usually detected during a routine eye exam by your regular doctor or eye care professional (optometrist or ophthalmologist).

An ophthalmologist who specializes in retina and macula problems can diagnose which type of AMD you have. Also, several treatments for wet AMD are done by an ophthalmologist.

How can you care for yourself when you have age-related macular degeneration (AMD)?

Watch for any changes in your vision. Use a special chart, called an Amsler grid, to check your vision in both eyes. If any of the lines change or look wavy or curved, or if you notice your vision gets worse, call your doctor.

How can you cope with age-related macular degeneration (AMD)?

To cope with AMD, try magnifying glasses, brighter lighting, and large-print books. Your doctor may refer you to an occupational therapist or rehabilitation specialist for help. Local agencies may offer services. You may have a range of emotions about AMD. If you feel very sad or hopeless, tell your doctor.

What increases your risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD)?

The main things that put you at risk (risk factors) for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) include:

Age greater than 55.

Older age is the biggest risk factor for getting AMD.

A family history of the disease.

You are much more likely to get AMD if a close relative has it.


If your ancestors were from northern Europe, you might be at higher risk.


People who smoke are more likely to develop AMD than nonsmokers.

Other risk factors for developing AMD may include:

  • Deposits at the back of the eye, called drusen. Eyes with large, soft drusen deposits are at a greater risk for developing abnormal blood vessels and wet AMD.
  • A diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Not getting enough carotenoids, antioxidant vitamins, and zinc in your diet.

How effective are vitamins for age-related macular degeneration (AMD)?

There are many studies being done to see if certain vitamin and mineral supplements and combinations of supplements may help prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The studies are also looking to see if there's delay in vision loss for people who already have it.

Some studies have found that supplementing your diet with high levels of vitamins C, E, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which are all antioxidants, and the minerals zinc and copper may help slow the progress of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD). They may also help delay vision loss if you already have moderate or severe AMD. There is no evidence that the supplements are helpful if you do not have AMD or only have a mild form of the disease.

If you're interested in taking a vitamin or mineral supplement, talk with your doctor about the risks.

What causes age-related macular degeneration (AMD)?

AMD is the result of damage to the light-detecting nerve cells in the part of the eye called the macula. The cause of the damage to the nerve cells is unknown. A person's genes and family history may play a role.

What is age-related macular degeneration (AMD)?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease that causes blurring of your central vision. The blurring happens because of damage to the macula, a small area at the back of the eye. The macula helps you see the fine detail in things that your eyes are focusing on.

Macular degeneration makes it harder to do things that require sharp central vision, like reading, driving, and recognizing faces. It does not affect side vision, so it does not lead to complete blindness.

There are two types of macular degeneration—wet and dry. The dry form is by far the most common type. The wet form is much less common, but it happens more quickly and is more severe.

You may have either type in just one eye, but over time you may get it in the other eye too.

Age-related macular degeneration: When to call

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have new or worse vision changes.
  • You check your vision with an Amsler grid, and the lines look different than before.

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