Age-Related Macular Degeneration
What is age-related macular degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration
(AMD) is a disease that affects a person’s central vision. AMD is the most common cause
of severe eyesight loss among people age 50 and older. Only the center of vision is
affected with this disease. It is rare that people go totally blind from it. But AMD can
make it hard to read, drive, or do other daily activities that need fine, central
AMD occurs when the macula is
damaged and begins to break down. The macula is located in the center of the retina and
provides us with sight in the center of our field of vision. With less of the macula
working, central vision begins to get worse.
What causes age-related macular degeneration?
There are 2 main types of AMD. They
have different causes:
Dry AMD. This type is the most
common. Experts don't know what causes it. This happens as the light-sensitive cells
in the macula slowly break down. It generally happens in both eyes. It is thought
that the age-related thickening of the tissue under the retina helps lead to dry
Wet AMD. This type is less common. It
accounts for most severe eyesight loss caused by AMD. Wet AMD happens when new blood
vessels behind the retina start to grow under the retina. They leak fluid and blood.
They can create a large blind spot in the center of the visual field.
Who is at risk for macular degeneration?
Possible risk factors for AMD are:
Being a woman
Being age 60 and older
Uncontrolled high blood pressure
High blood cholesterol levels
High C-reactive protein levels in the blood
What are the symptoms of age-related macular degeneration?
Symptoms may be a bit different for
each person. Symptoms may include:
Blurry or fuzzy vision
Straight lines look wavy
Some objects look smaller than they really are
Colors look paler than normal
A dark, empty area or blind spot is in
the center of vision
Quick loss of central vision, which is
needed for driving, reading, recognizing faces, and doing close-up work
One of the most common early signs
of AMD is tiny yellow deposits (drusen) in the retina. It may mean the eye is at risk
for more severe AMD. These will be visible to your healthcare provider during an eye
The symptoms of AMD may seem like
other eye conditions. Talk with an eye care provider for a diagnosis.
How is age-related macular degeneration diagnosed?
In addition to a full health
history and eye exam, your eye care provider may do these tests to diagnose AMD:
Visual acuity test. The common eye
chart test. It measures how well you see at different distances.
Pupil dilation. The pupil is widened
with eye drops for a close-up exam of the eye’s retina.
Amsler grid. This is used to find wet
AMD. You are asked to look at a grid and see if the straight lines in the pattern are
missing or look wavy. Both of these may mean you have AMD.
Fluorescein angiography. This test is
used to find wet AMD. A special dye is injected into a vein in the arm. Pictures are
then taken as the dye passes through the blood vessels in the retina. This helps the
healthcare provider evaluate if the blood vessels are leaking. It also helps the
provider figure out if the leaking can be treated.
How is age-related macular degeneration treated?
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It
will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Treatment for wet AMD often
includes shots (injections) of medicines into the eye. This is done to stop the growth
of the abnormal blood vessels under the macula. These injections are typically painless.
Treatment may also include a type of laser surgery. A high-energy beam of light is aimed
directly onto the leaking blood vessels. This is done to stop further leaking. But this
is often not needed.
Currently there is no treatment for
dry AMD. But this does not mean that your sight will definitely be lost. This is
particularly true if the AMD affects only one eye. Over time, central vision may be lost
or reduced. Generally, the rate of loss is slow. There are nutritional treatment choices
that may slow the disease progression.
What are possible complications of age-related macular
AMD can result in severe loss of central vision. It is rare that it
causes total blindness. But it can make it hard to read, drive, or do other daily
activities that need detailed central vision.
Living with macular degeneration
If you have already had some vision loss, talk with your provider.
Ask for information on services for people with low vision. Also ask about devices that
may help you with your daily tasks.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
If your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms, call your
Key points about age-related macular degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
is a disease that affects a person’s central vision
AMD can lead to severe loss of central
vision. It is rare that it causes blindness.
It can make it hard to read, drive, or
do other things that need fine, central vision.
Risk factors include being age 50 and
older, being a woman, smoking, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity,
and high cholesterol.
There is no cure. But there are
treatment choices that may stop or slow the disease progression.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.
Online Medical Reviewer:
Chris Haupert MD
Online Medical Reviewer:
Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer:
Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed:
© 2000-2018 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.