Macular degeneration is an eye disease that causes blurring of your central vision and loss of finer details. While macular degeneration does not cause complete loss of vision, it can make it more difficult to see and distinguish faces, read, drive or do close-up work like cooking or writing.

About Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration occurs when the macula—the part of the retina that controls sharp, straight-ahead vision—starts to lose function. This commonly occurs as we age which is why macular degeneration is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). And because AMD is age-related, it generally develops gradually and without notice. It’s important to note, however, that AMD progresses differently from patient to patient based on the type of AMD, your genetics and overall health.

If you’re currently experiencing any loss of vision, particularly in your central field of vision and your family has a history with AMD, it’s important to consult your eye doctor immediately. When it comes to macular degeneration, early detection, diagnosis and treatment is critical to halting the progression of your symptoms.

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What are the types and stages of macular degeneration?

There are two main types of age-related macular degeneration, dry AMD and wet AMD.


The more common type of AMD is dry AMD, also called atrophic AMD. Dry AMD occurs when the the light-sensitive cells in the macula breakdown and the macula gets thinner. With less of the macula working, details become harder to distinguish and your central vision becomes more blurred.

Dry AMD occurs in three stages: early, intermediate and late, and usually progresses slowly over several years. There is unfortunately no treatment for late-stage dry AMD, but there are ways to make the most of your remaining vision. And if you develop dry ADM in only 1 eye, there are ways to protect your other eye.


The other type of AMD is wet AMD, also called advanced neovascular AMD. While less common than dry AMD, west AMD usually happens faster and more dramatically. Any stage of dry AMD can turn into wet AMD, but wet AMD is always late stage. Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow too close to the macular, fail and cause subsequent damage. Thankfully, there are treatment options available for wet AMD.

AMD risk factors

Although macular degeneration is primarily age-related, there are a few factors besides age that can contribute to a person’s likelihood of developing it.

  • Gender: recent studies suggest women may be at a greater risk for wet AMD
  • Genetics: whether your family has a history of AMD
  • Smoking: smoking may increase your risk of developing AMD
  • High cholesterol: individuals with elevated blood cholesterol levels are at a higher risk for wet AMD

What are the symptoms of macular degeneration?

Symptoms depend largely on the stage of AMD. And because macular degeneration is a progressive disease, symptoms usually worsen over time.

Early dry AMD doesn’t cause any symptoms and can therefore be difficult to notice or diagnose.

In intermediate dry AMD, symptoms vary from patient to patient. Some may experience no symptoms whatsoever. However, others may experience mild symptoms like miss blurriness in their central vision or difficulty seeing in dim lighting.

In late AMD (dry or wet), symptoms become more pronounced. Many notice that straight lines appear crooked or wavy, and that objects become distorted in shape and size. Others experience a loss of clarity or color. And still others see blank spots in the center of their field of vision.

Experiencing blurry vision or loss of finer details straight-ahead? Our eye doctors can detect, diagnose and prescribe macular degeneration treatment.

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Macular Degeneration Treatment

Treatment options for macular degeneration depend on the stage and type. Currently, there is no treatment available for early AMD. If detected early, there are many ways to slow the progression and severity of dry AMD. These include adopting a healthier lifestyle, exercising regularly and quitting smoking. And as mentioned before, dry AMD develops quite slowly so there is plenty of time to adapt to the changes in your vision. In fact, most people with dry AMD are able to lead normal, active lives, especially if it affects only one eye.

If you have intermediate AMD, you may benefit from special dietary supplements that could potentially halt the progression into late AMD. Your ophthalmologist will discuss whether supplements may be a good fit for you.

As for wet AMD, there are more treatment options available that may be able to stop further vision loss. The more common options include photodynamic therapy and VEGF receptor antibodies. Some cases of wet AMD can be treated with laser surgery by destroying the blood vessels causing damage to the macula. Laser surgery is generally reserved for those patients who haven’t responded to other treatments. Again, your eye doctor will discuss your eligibility and the availability of treatment options.

And as it stands right now, unfortunately there is no treatment for late-stage dry AMD.

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