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Living Well with Geographic Atrophy

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Geographic Atrophy Progression: What to Know

Medically Reviewed By Katherine E. Duncan, MD

Geographic atrophy may progress to permanent partial vision loss within a few years of developing. However, treatment can help slow vision loss and manage symptoms. Geographic atrophy is an advanced form of dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD occurs when the natural aging process causes damage to the macula, the part of the eye that helps produce clear central vision.

AMD and geographic atrophy are progressive, meaning they worsen over time.

Geographic atrophy progression

A blurry view of illustrated red cars on a blue background.
Jan Hakan Dahlstrom/Stocksy United

Geographic atrophy occurs at an advanced stage of dry AMD.

It causes lesions that damage the cells within the macula. Eventually, the damage may spread Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source to the fovea, the very center of the macula, which helps produce clear central vision.

According to a 2023 research review, the average time it takes for geographic atrophy lesions to progress to the fovea is around 1.4–2.5 years Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source . Once lesions develop in the fovea, vision loss can happen quickly.

Still, the progression speed of geographic atrophy can vary per person.

Talk with your medical team for personal advice about geographic atrophy progression.

General outlook of geographic atrophy

Geographic atrophy is a progressive condition that currently has no cure Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source .

Eventually, it can lead to permanent central vision loss. However, geographic atrophy doesn’t usually affect side or peripheral vision.

While treatment can’t cure geographic atrophy, it may help slow its development and improve your quality of life.

Factors affecting the outlook of geographic atrophy

Several factors may affect geographic atrophy’s progression, including:

  • The other eye’s health: The condition tends to be more rapid and severe in people with geographic atrophy in both eyes.
  • Lesion number: More lesions may mean faster progression and more severe vision loss.
  • Lesion size: Larger lesions at the time of diagnosis may link to a faster growth rate.
  • Lesion location: If the lesion is in the fovea, an area of the retina that’s crucial for sharp, central vision, it can result in rapid declines in visual clarity.
  • Age: As you go through the natural aging process, the risk and the severity of geographic atrophy may increase.
  • Genetics: Having certain genetic variations Trusted Source PloS One Highly respected journal, Expert written journal, Peer reviewed journal Go to source can increase the risk and severity of the condition, leading to a faster rate of progression and more extensive vision loss.
  • Lifestyle factors: Certain lifestyle factors, such as smoking or eating a high glycemic diet, may increase Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source the risk and speed of AMD and geographic atrophy.
  • Systemic health: People with certain conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, may experience faster geographic atrophy progression, which can affect the outlook.

Treatment and management for geographic atrophy  

While there’s currently no cure for geographic atrophy, treatment and management can help slow down vision loss and relieve symptoms. 

In 2023, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two new injectable medications to help slow the growth Trusted Source The Lancet Highly respected journal, Expert written journal, Peer reviewed journal Go to source of geographic atrophy lesions. They’re known as pegcetacoplan (Syfovre) and avacincaptad pegol (Izervay), and you can receive them via monthly or twice-monthly injections.

However, even with medication, appropriate lifestyle changes and regular checkups are still key. Lifestyle changes may include:

  • using low vision aids, such as magnifying glasses, telescopic lenses, or electronic magnifiers
  • making other adjustments, such as improving lighting conditions and reducing glare on screens
  • participating in occupational therapy, which can help you learn about lifestyle approaches and access care
  • avoiding smoking, if you smoke
  • getting regular physical activity
  • eating a balanced diet as recommended by a doctor or registered dietitian

The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests that eating a balanced diet high in fish, dark leafy greens, and yellow fruits and vegetables may also benefit health with AMD.

Read more about management options for geographic atrophy.

Summary

Geographic atrophy progresses at different speeds for those affected but may lead to vision loss within a few years once it develops.

However, new treatments with injectable medications can slow the speed of geographic atrophy progression and vision loss.

Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about geographic atrophy or its outlook.

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Medical Reviewer: Katherine E. Duncan, MD
Last Review Date: 2024 Mar 19
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